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Aric Egmont and Jennie Bass
Photo: Melody Ko

My Jumbo Valentine

How to propose with style, and what to do if you’re jilted at the altar

One Down on Bended Knee. On his fourth date with Jennie Bass, a graduate student at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Aric Egmont realized he had struck gold. The two ended up going to a coffee shop and doing a crossword puzzle together. “I knew I had found the kind of dork I could love,” Aric says.

The Sunday crossword became a weekly ritual. Then last summer, after the couple had pondered many a clue in tandem, Aric approached the Boston Globe Magazine with an unusual request for Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, A73, G74, the married puzzle-writing team who had been fashioning the crossword for years. Would it be possible, he wondered, to create a special kind of puzzle just for him?

Rathvon and Cox rose to the occasion. Their puzzle was titled “Popping the Question,” and each entry was a variation on the theme of proposals (the answer to the clue “Macramé artist’s proposal” was “Let’s tie the knot”). The challenge, which the team met with sly touches, was to create a crossword that would make sense to the public even though it was loaded with personal meaning for the one woman who was its target.

And so the stage was set. Aric endured a restless Saturday night. Finally, on Sunday morning, he asked Jennie, as casually as he could manage, whether she wanted to do the crossword. “I grab the paper, and we start doing it,” he relates. “There are clues that have personal significance—my last name, her best friend’s name. She’s not suspicious at all. Her sister’s name is in there. She just thinks it’s an amazing coincidence.”

Finally the couple got to 111 across, “Generic proposal,” to which the answer was “Will you marry me?” At that point, Aric proffered a ring. After some screaming and hugging, the bride-to-be managed a yes. The wedding is planned for September 2008.

Disengaged. Franz Wisner, A88, was all ready to live happily ever after. A spectacular wedding was planned down to the last detail. Flowers, food, and guests were en route. Then the bride bowed out.

So Franz did the only logical thing—he had the party anyway. And afterwards, he went on the pre-paid Costa Rican honeymoon. With his brother.

It was a trip that changed his life, as he explains on his website, honeymoonwithmybrother.com. “Kurt and I did something we hadn’t done in decades—talk, at length.” That was in 1999. Both ended up quitting their jobs, selling their homes, and continuing to travel. Two years and 53 countries later, Franz was itching to write a book about the experience, and by 2005 that book, which, naturally, was called Honeymoon with My Brother, had been published by St. Martin’s Press. It did so well that St. Martin’s requested a sequel.

The new book, set for release on Valentine’s Day 2009, will be about love around the world. The brothers have journeyed to Botswana, New Zealand, Egypt, the Czech Republic, Nicaragua, India, and Brazil, staying in each country for a month and interviewing all kinds of people—male and female, young and old, gay and straight, urban and rural—about subjects like dating dos and don’ts and what makes the ideal partner. “Love,” says Franz, turns out to be “one of those things on which everyone is an expert.”

Franz’s own story gets better by the year. In this latest installment, he falls in love again, proposes again, and, at long last, marries. Tracy Middendorf, an actress who has appeared on such TV series as Lost and House, is “an amazing woman,” he remarks. “Not only did she say yes, but she actually showed up.”

Spray It, Don’t Say It. Eva Lucki, A02, didn’t give it a second thought when, on a last-minute trip to Boston, she and her beau, Matt Baxter, E02, set out for a walk around the Tufts campus where they had met. Even as they headed up the Hill and Matt quickened his pace and tightened his grip on her hand, she never guessed anything unusual was going on.

Then, when they reached the cannon—the unofficial billboard for generations of Tufts students—the surprise hit her full force. There on the barrel was the spray-painted proposal, and there on one knee in front of her was Matt. “Never one for speeches, Matt kept things simple, repeating five words over and over—‘I love you so much,’ ” Eva says. “I said yes right away. We are planning a wedding for September 13, 2008, on the beach at Southampton, New York.”

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