A Proposal in Our Pages. The Crossword to Be Exact.

Here’s the down and across of the plan. But did it work?

Austinite Jen Corton had originally planned a bigger proposal, one where she and her girlfriend Kellie McManus would visit New York together so that they could see the snow, surrounded by family, before popping the question. As it happens, those plans fell through.

Luckily, before Corton could execute that grand plan, she realized her girlfriend would probably prefer something more personal and intimate.

Spoiler alert: These are the answers to the puzzle in the Nov. 15 issue, complete with proposal. We couldn't get 25 across though.

Corton tells us via email: “I switched gears and thought of something we both enjoy doing in our home.”

“I get the crossword for my girlfriend every Thursday. … I usually come home and she goes directly to my bag to get it out. I've gotten her several crossword books, but she is always excited when I bring home the Chronicle.” She skips over all the great stories (we’ll try not to take it personally) and heads directly to the puzzle near the back page.

A lightbulb went off in Corton's head and she sent an email to us at the Chronicle asking if a proposal in the crossword was possible. We looped in our syndicated crossword maker Josh Reynolds of Park & Homer Puzzles, who was up for the task.

“Composing a crossword specific to the couple was more challenging than a typical build,” Reynolds says via email. “Mainly because I was aiming to establish a theme that was general, yet specific into the 15x15 grid.”

It was marriage-themed, but most other details were made specifically for the couple. From the first answer being "Kellie," to inside jokes, down to the crossword number (#321 - March 21 is the duo’s anniversary), most elements of the puzzle had a purpose.

Kellie McManus (left) and Jen Corton

“My intention is to have average puzzle-doers complete the grid easily comprehending the theme,” the puzzle creator says. “But, the added extra clues will make this puzzle special to Kellie and Jen.” Or so everyone hoped.

Last Thursdsay, Corton arrived home and handed her girlfriend the paper. She then went to sit in the living room and anxiously waited to see if McManus would notice the theme.

“I sweat bullets as she does the crossword,” Corton recounts. “Of course, she doesn't say anything, I'm over there thinking she's not getting any clues and is stumped.”

When McManus comes back to her with the puzzle only partly done, she still hadn’t spoken a word. Corton stares at the paper, believing her plan has failed. Then she alights on an idea.

“I ask her to simply read all of the answer to 36, then it finally clicks! I pull out the ring and she says yes!” If it isn't clear, 36- and 38-across combine read "Will you marry me."

“My favorite thing though is throughout the puzzle, she had realized the marriage theme, [she] just didn't say anything,” Corton continues. “She was like, ‘Dang this would be a cute way to propose!’ She even looked around for a name, a sentence, any clues as to who it could be for – her name is literally the first answer.”

Despite all of Corton’s stress, it was the “low key” proposal the couple had hoped for.

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Wedding proposal, Crossword, Park & Homer Puzzles, J. Reynolds

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