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Laeo Crnkovic-Rubsamen ’23 and Charlotte Merchant ’23 prepare to leave Walker Hall for their TigerCuff date at La Mezzaluna. 

Photo Courtesy of Laeo Crnkovic-Rubsamen ’23

Laeo Crnkovic-Rubsamen ’23 and Charlotte Merchant ’23 met on move-in day in the same zee group in Walker Hall. Their relationship changed after both decided to try out student-produced matchmaking service TigerCuff. 

Created by Ronnie Kihonge ’22 to aid in what he saw as a loneliness problem on campus, TigerCuff was originally advertised in an email to students on Nov. 6. 

“I think that people are lonely on campus so it's creating a platform for people to be able to meet other people,” Kihonge said. “It’s a way that brings people together that can actually help people.”

Interested participants completed a form with questions about their personality and had the opportunity to go on a date with their match to local restaurants and receive a discount. 

Using a matching algorithm made by one of Kihonge’s friends, 126 students were paired based on similarities in their answers to the application, which included would-you-rather and personality-type questions.

“The matching was done by an algorithm made by a COS friend who[m] I was working with,” Kihonge explained. “It matched people based on the answers of the questions we came up with.”

Both Crnkovic-Rubsamen and Merchant said they signed up for TigerCuff as a joke. When they received their matches, they realized they knew each other from living on the same hall and decided to try a date, with the benefit of at least getting a discount on a nice meal.

On Nov. 10, they left Wilson College and walked to La Mezzaluna on Witherspoon Street, where they enjoyed dinner and conversation.

“We picked La Mezzaluna because it was more like a sit-down kind of thing,” Merchant said. “I think there’s definitely a difference between going on a date where you’re sitting down for a meal together and it’s going to take some time so obviously you want to fill the silence with conversation versus going to a smoothie place.”

At dinner, the conversation ranged from life at home, in New York for Crnkovic-Rubsamen and Tennessee for Merchant, to a shared intended concentration in computer science to what they want to do with their lives after their time at the University. As the date continued, they began to recognize similarities they had not seen before, including being adventurous, hoping to find a winter snuggle buddy through TigerCuff, and having similar eating habits, with Crnkovic-Rubsamen being pescatarian and Merchant growing up in a “plant-based family” big on vegetarianism. 

“A lot of our answers lined up,” Crnkovic-Rubsamen said. 

“She’s very free-spirited, doesn’t really care what other people say,” he added. “She’s cool, very cool.”

At La Mezzaluna, the pair enjoyed a scrumptious dinner at a 25 percent discount — 15 from TigerCuff and 10 from The Daily Princetonian — of fried calamari and pumpkin ravioli as appetizers and branzino with lobster risotto and pasta with tomato sauce and Italian eggplant as a main course. Crnkovic-Rubsamen and Merchant split the bill.

“We went and ate some good food, felt bad, well not felt bad because I mean the food here is great, but just like ‘mmm, this fried calamari is so good, what are those other people at Wilson eating?’” Merchant said. 

They went on a second date on Nov. 17 to the University Art Museum and Playa Bowls. 

Both Crnkovic-Rubsamen and Merchant rated the date a five out of five with “good banter, conversation, and content,” according to Merchant. 

Crnkovic-Rubsamen encouraged more students to get involved. A second round of TigerCuff was done after some students missed the first deadline, said Kihonge, but he has no plans for further matches.

“I can’t believe not everyone did it,” Crnkovic-Rubsamen said. “Even if they don’t know the person, they should just reach out and get the discounted meal. It’s so fun.”