Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/5/2019 (384 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Every weekend, Leanne and Ron Cadieux sit down and do the crossword puzzle in Saturday’s Free Press. It’s a little slice of the week they carve out for themselves, to relax and unwind as a couple.
This past Saturday, however, was special. It was Ron’s 55th birthday, and Leanne surprised her husband with a personalized puzzle, commissioned from Winnipeg-based crossword designer Derek Bowman. (It’s a milestone-heavy year for Ron; he’s also retiring from a long career in education in June.)
Leanne had read a profile of Bowman in the Free Press last year, and learned that he designs personal crosswords for people to give as gifts. Originally, Leanne figured she’d just see if the Free Press would print Bowman’s Ron crossword on a piece of newsprint that she could just slip into her own Saturday copy.
Instead, the Free Press replaced the regular Premier crossword in the May 11 edition with the Ron crossword so the whole city could get in on the fun.
"It was a huge surprise, and it actually ended up being a little bit of a gong show," Ron says with a laugh on Sunday morning in the couple’s living room. You see, Ron nearly didn’t do his own crossword on Saturday. He almost didn’t see it.
"I started with the morning coffee and the crossword — but Friday’s," he says. "I hadn’t done Friday’s yet."
"I was like, ‘Noooooo,’" Leanne says with a laugh.
Ron also wanted to get some yardwork done, and get the house ready for birthday guests who were coming by in the evening. Leanne, meanwhile, tried to direct her husband’s attention back to the paper.
"Did you notice how I said a few times, ‘Relax, it’s your birthday, just sit down and do the crossword or something’?" Leanne asks her husband. "I said it a few times."
"I was oblivious," Ron says.
Leanne’s extremely thoughtful surprise was going sideways, and fast. "Ideally, the day would have gone where he wakes up, reads the paper, does the crossword and says, ‘Leanne, is this for me?’" she says with a laugh.
So, she went to Plan B. To get her normally puzzle-loving husband to work on his custom crossword, Leanne made him another puzzle — a cryptogram, alerting him to a surprise hidden within the pages of the Free Press. But that didn’t quite go as intended, either. Because he had set up a treasure hunt for his wife for her birthday last year, Ron’s mind immediately went to treasure hunt.
He scoured the entire paper for clues. The crossword, of course, is at the back of the paper.
Leanne even highlighted the squares in the crossword that spelled out a secret message: "bonne fête."
There were other clues, too. The crossword Bowman came up with was called "Da Do Ron Ron." Many of the answers were words with "Ron" in them — Toronto, Geronimo, Veronica.
"A long time ago, I realized there were a lot of words with his name in them — electronic, chronic," Leanne explains. Many of those words became de facto pet names for Ron. ("Veronica," for the record, is not one of Ron’s nicknames, but "moron" sometimes is.)
And even still, Ron didn’t get it at first. "As I was doing it earlier, I was like, ‘Oh this is kind of strange, and there’s a bunch of words that she calls me by sometimes with ‘Ron’ in them.
I figured there was no way she could mastermind that; I mean, who does that?" (A six-letter word for someone with exceptional intelligence beginning with the letter G, that’s who.)
Ron ended up completing the crossword with his family over dessert.
"It was really a neat surprise," he says. "The fact it was actually published in the paper, how do you co-ordinate that? I didn’t think it was a possibility, so I never entertained it. When it finally sunk in, I was really excited. It was really cool."
"It ended up working out beautifully, and my kids were there, too, and got to see the surprise," Leanne says.
She earned that payoff; it’s a surprise she’s been sitting on since the fall.
"This has been in the house since October," she says, turning to her husband.
"Really? Where’d you hide it?"
"I’m not telling you," she laughs playfully.
After three kids, nearly 31 years of marriage and 37 years as a couple, the Cadieuxs are still finding ways to surprise each other.
"It is possible to keep having fun," Leanne says with a smile.
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
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Updated on Monday, May 13, 2019 at 10:18 AM CDT: fixes typo