A love affair with words

If you were going to cross Susan Garrett and Scott Weiss' names in a crossword puzzle, the vertical clue might read, "The woman who rediscovered her love of word puzzles when she met a great guy." The horizontal clue would say, "The man who proposed in a puzzle."

Susan has always been fascinated with wordplay. As a child, she designed her own crossword puzzles. As a teacher, she uses word games like "Tom Swifties" to make linguistics and punctuation interesting for college students.


It was the Swifties (puns written at the turn of the century in which the adverb in the sentence is a play on the word that is the subject of the pun: "The situation is grave," Tom said cryptically) that sparked a conversation between Susan and Scott.

They met in July 1997 when Scott, then a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University, attended a conference in Philadelphia and ended up staying at Susan's house. Susan, who grew up in Catonsville, was working on her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. Scott's adviser knew Susan's roommate.


An avid gamesman, Scott gives gaming parties that are famous among his friends and family. A longtime member of the National Puzzlers League, Scott writes his own crossword puzzles and wordplays. He's a regular at the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, and he solves the New York Times crossword every Sunday.

After discovering their shared passion for puzzles, the new acquaintances began e-mailing. In August, Susan came to Baltimore to visit her family, and she and Scott had their first date. A few weeks later, Scott started at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg as a computer science lecturer. Susan began returning to Maryland on the weekends to be with him.

Scott talked her into joining the puzzlers' league. He got her on his prize-winning team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's annual scavenger hunt. (Participants solve puzzles to find the clues that eventually lead them to the prize.)

On May 29, 1999, Scott made a puzzle and e-mailed it to a friend. The friend then sent it to Susan and Scott, claiming he was the author and that he wanted them to rate its difficulty.

Scott spent that Sunday evening waiting for Susan to check her e-mail. When she did, she decided it was too late to solve the puzzle, but Scott talked her into it.

Susan wasn't paying close attention to the series of fill-in-the-blank sentences. After they solved the puzzle, she still missed its deeper meaning. It wasn't until Scott pointed out that their names were among the clues that Susan saw the message. Read vertically, the first word of each clue spelled: "Susan Garrett Please Make Scott Very Happy By Taking His Name."

Susan was elated. "It had the best effect of any puzzle I've written," Scott says.

Last August, Susan moved back to Maryland. She is an adjunct professor of linguistics and composition at Goucher College in Baltimore and Western Maryland College in Westminster. A framed copy of her "proposal puzzle" hangs on the wall of each of her offices.


On April 30, Susan and Scott, both 29, were married at Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Marriottsville. The 150 guests included Susan's parents, Howard and Carole Garrett of Marriottsville and Scott's parents, Gerald and Elaine Weiss of Westbury, NY.

The blessings said over the couple offered this wish: "May your sense of humor and playful spirit always continue to enliven your relationship." During their vows, Susan promised Scott she would "always find time for games and puzzles with you."