How They Met: Four Letters, Starts with "L"
Falling in Love
That moment arrived the following March, but only with the help of two twists of fate. "I was planning to attend just the Friday-evening social events and games," says Jessica, the founder and executive director of the New York Opportunity Network, a nonprofit organization in New York City that helps low-income public high school students. "I never thought I was good enough to compete during the actual competition on Saturday and Sunday, so I went home on Friday night. But when I woke up on Saturday morning, something told me to get on a train and go right back to the competition."
Meanwhile, Greg almost missed the '05 tournament altogether. A composer and conductor of popular music whose arrangements have been recorded by Carly Simon and Michael Stipe, he was on tour in Europe. "Our tour ended earlier than we thought," he says. "The morning after our plane landed, I drove straight to Stamford, getting there just in time to do the first puzzle. I looked over at one of the other tables and there was this beautiful woman. I instantly felt something."
Greg, who had been briefly married before, went over to talk to a friend during a break. "That was a ruse," says Greg, now 44. "He was sitting next to Jessica and it gave me an excuse to introduce myself to her."
"I knew the minute we started talking that Greg was different from any of the other guys I'd dated," says Jessica, 32. "We just clicked." She was delighted when they ate lunch together, then dinner. "After dinner, we played Boggle and other games for hours," she continues, noting that "he was head and shoulders above me in ability. I kept thinking how glad I was that I'd followed my instincts and returned to the tournament. I got very lucky -- who'd have thought my nerdy pastime would introduce me to the love of my life?"
At 3 a.m., when the two word wizards finally headed back to their rooms, they stole a passionate kiss in the elevator. By the time the tournament ended on Sunday evening, they were "an item," as Jessica puts it.
Greg offered to drive Jessica back to New York City, where they both lived. "I really knew Jessica was the woman for me when I heard her on her cell phone in the car," says Greg. "She was speaking with a high school student her organization had helped. The combination of encouragement, solid advice, and genuine caring came through so clearly."
The couple got married on June 3, 2006, Jessica's 32nd birthday. Will Shortz, puzzle-meister extraordinaire, was among the guests. "I've been a Will Shortz groupie since my college days," gushes Jessica. "I used to go to every event where he was speaking! To have him at our wedding was a thrill -- and couldn't have been more appropriate since Greg and I would never have gotten together if it weren't for the tournament Shortz started."
At the end of the ceremony, the cantor who officiated made a prophetic pun, offering up the hope that "never a cross word will pass between you." And that, the couple's shared hobby excepted, is exactly what has come to pass.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, March 2007.
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