FANS of the Free Press Diversions section found themselves swept up in a homegrown romance Saturday. When decoded, the June 30 Cryptoquip puzzle read, "A question found in black and white, as to how you will spend your life. Rachael Hatherell give me your day and night, and say yes to becoming my wife? Will you marry me? -- Daniel Minuk."
Winnipeggers Minuk and Rachael Hatherell are the couple behind the puzzle proposal. Minuk used the couple's Saturday tradition of doing the crossword and Cryptoquip together at Starbucks to pop the question to his girlfriend of six years.
Don't worry, folks: She said yes.
"I started doing the Cryptoquip and I was thinking, 'This is a really long one.' So I got a couple of letters, and he was just kind of sitting back. He was still playing along, saying 'I can't believe you got that one without me,' " explained Hatherell. "And I was starting to fill in a few more letters and I thought 'Oh that's so funny. That word, if you filled in a few more letters, could be Hatherell.' Then I keep going and then I thought, 'Oh that's so funny. That word could be Daniel if you filled in the D and the L.' And then as I realized what it was, I broke down laughing and crying over the paper."
"I said, 'I guess I should get down on one knee at this point,' " said Minuk.
Minuk and Hatherell met in 2005 when attending law school together at the University of Manitoba.
"I heard her laughing and it was the best laugh out of all the girls in law school. And that was it," said Minuk.
The two hope to marry in the summer, though they haven't landed on a date yet.
Although Minuk's proposal went off without a hitch, a lot of labour went into its planning.
"I wanted to do something different, but we don't have a special day or song or anything like that. I figured one way that I could do it was to use Starbucks and what we do on a regular basis," said Minuk.
Minuk contacted the Free Press at the end of May and found out that the paper outsources the Cryptoquip puzzles from King Features. Another call to the New York-based company, and the plan was in motion.
Ironically, Minuk got the final word the puzzle was a go when he was filing divorce papers for a client.
"I was just grinning ear to ear. I must have looked pretty stupid filing these divorce documents in court and looking so happy," Minuk joked.
Minuk said the hardest part was trying to make sure no one they knew solved it first and ruined the surprise. Minuk knew the biggest threat lay in Hatherell's smartphone.
"In such an elaborate way of proposing, I couldn't hold all of those unknown variables certain," said Minuk.
After a series of failed attempts at cutting off Hatherell's phone use such as draining her battery, removing her phone's SIM card and disconnecting the wireless Internet, Minuk finally got his bride-to-be to turn off her phone under the ruse of spending uninterrupted, quality time together.
Minuk also wanted to make sure they did the puzzle as early as possible. He made a series of what he calls "acceptable lies" for the earlier coffee date.
"I guess only in this case is lying OK," Hatherell laughed.
The "acceptable lies" paid off.
"I was truly surprised. I picked up on none of it. It went amazingly," said Hatherell.
After getting down on one knee on the patio of the Taylor Avenue Starbucks, the couple toasted their engagement with free beverages courtesy of the Starbucks employees who knew them as their Saturday regulars.
"I probably wouldn't have done it so elaborately if I hadn't been a little bit certain that she'd say yes," said Minuk.
"It was always a yes," Hatherell added smiling.