Crosswords and Dad Jokes Lead to a Deeper Connection

Their love began with a clue — a crossword clue, to be exact.

Sophia Wang and Marcus Brittain Fleming matched on Tinder in July 2019. When Mr. Fleming first messaged Ms. Wang asking what she was up to, she said she was doing a New York Times crossword puzzle. He said, “Give me a clue.”

They did the crossword together over messages on the dating app, until Mr. Fleming, 33, suggested they meet up to do puzzles in person.

On their first date, in August 2019, they had a picnic in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, with snacks, puzzles and pencils at the ready. But Ms. Wang soon found that Mr. Fleming was more interested in getting to know her than in finding the right seven-letter word. “He really wouldn’t let me do the crossword,” Ms. Wang, 33, recalled with a laugh.

As the sun set and the air cooled, the two settled into a steady rhythm of dad jokes and giggles.

Three days later, they sat on the floor of Ms. Wang’s apartment in Flatbush, Brooklyn, eating Indian food and sharing intimate details about their lives. At the time, Mr. Fleming was in graduate school and working multiple jobs. Ms. Wang was preparing to quit her job and go to Mexico for five months to “soul search,” she said. That night, Mr. Fleming said, they realized that they could “handle each other” — and that there was space for the silliness and the turbulence, too.

Over the next month, they saw each other every weekend. When Ms. Wang’s father — the photographer and filmmaker Harvey Wang — had an upcoming art show in upstate New York, Mr. Fleming asked if he could come; Ms. Wang was surprised.

“I was like, ‘Um, yeah, let me think about it,’” she said. “‘Let me feel if I want you to meet my entire family, like, a month into dating.’”

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She decided to go for it, and the weekend became a turning point in their relationship. Mr. Fleming fit right in with her family, corny jokes and all. (At one point, her little brother asked Mr. Fleming if he had ever played the board game Life, and he replied, “Aren’t we playing it right now?”)

Six weeks later, Ms. Wang left for Mexico City. Mr. Fleming visited her, and she decided to come home about two and a half months early. Then, about six months into their relationship, the Covid-19 pandemic began.

In March 2020, the couple went to visit Ms. Wang’s mother, the actor Sonja Sohn, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. They ended up staying for two months. It was a new experience for them, and the two came out of it knowing that they wanted to be together, even through uncertain times.

While they wanted to take the next step in their relationship, they weren’t sure that marriage was for them. So they agreed that a ring, initially without the promise of marriage, would be the next best thing. In the summer of 2021, the couple started designing a custom ring using diamonds inherited from their grandmothers. They worked with Lori McLean, a jewelry designer, to make “a new heirloom,” Ms. Wang said. During the process, they realized it felt right to celebrate their love with a wedding.

Mr. Fleming proposed to Ms. Wang on June 19, 2022 — in the apartment where they first fell in love over Indian food and shared truths.

Ms. Wang is an independent screenwriter and actor. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting from the California Institute of the Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from Brooklyn College.

Mr. Fleming is a psychotherapist in private practice and also works at the Brooklyn Center for Families in Crisis. He graduated from Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minn., with a bachelor’s in English and from N.Y.U. with a master’s in social work.

The couple were married on July 8 at Hayfield, an events space in Maplecrest, N.Y., by their friend Rigoberto Lara Guzmán, who was ordained by the Universal Life Church for the event. Their 90 guests included Ms. Wang’s mother and father; Mr. Fleming’s parents, Charles Brittain Fleming, a retired technical sergeant for the U.S. Air Force, and Barbara Warren, a retired nurse; and cast members from “The Wire,” the television show in which Ms. Wang had appeared and her mother starred.

Before the ceremony, which incorporated Jewish traditions, guests participated in a meditation on love. The dress theme was “whimsical,” and many attendees wore tulle and rainbow-hued looks. The couple’s first dance was to Frank Ocean’s “At Your Best (You Are Love),” a version of the Isley Brothers’ song.

In Mr. Fleming’s vows, he told the story of how Ms. Wang first said “I love you” accidentally, on her way out the door, after two months of dating. She bursts with love, he said, like “love confetti.”

They still have the crosswords from their first date. On the morning of their wedding, they got a copy of The New York Times and began to solve a new puzzle.

Anna Grace Lee is a reporting fellow on the Styles desk at The Times. More about Anna Grace Lee

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