Michael Griffith: Last month Chris Bachelder, may he be thanked and damned, sent me down a rabbit hole by introducing me to Hink Pinks. Chris passed along a most excellent and amusing feature on The Paris Review’s website, a series of nimble and often diabolically difficult examples by Dylan Hicks. I recommend those puzzles highly, and here steal, or rather quote, Hicks’s explanation of the genre:

wobblingoblin“Hink pink is a word game in which synonyms, circumlocution, and micronarratives provide clues for rhyming phrases. In the standard explanatory example, an “overweight feline” is a “fat cat.” Hink pinks on that babyish level aspire to lend vocabulary building an air of fun, but more sophisticated puzzles are sometimes mulled over on road trips, in trenches, and in other settings where boredom and tension might be mellowed, to paraphrase Dryden, by the dull sweets of rhyme. . . . A puzzle of disyllabic components is a hinky pinky, followed with decreasing dignity by hinkily pinkilies, hinklediddle pinklediddles, and hinklediddledoo pinklediddledoos. Even with longer puzzles, however, the goal, almost a mandate, is for each syllable to rhyme perfectly, though this perfection might depend on idiosyncratic stress.”

A few of the puzzles below aspire to Hicksian difficulty, and/or to the lovely epigrammatic density of his cluing (an example of his handiwork: “Hazzard County kingpin keeps track of interdental hygiene,” to which the answer, presumably, is “Boss Hogg’s floss log”). I’ve tried, though, to make at least some of them a bit easier and more accessible for the beginner. This is not a kindness, I admit—more in the spirit of the pusher hawking a gateway drug in the hopes of spreading the misery. As some of you will have witnessed on my Facebook wall a few weeks back, these little puzzles can be addictive. I have repaid Chris B. by visiting upon him a hink pinks fink jinx.)

Below are sixty wee puzzles. I’ve tried to provide a heads-up where there’s a whisper of off rhyme or a slight shift of emphasis. The one consistent exception I’ve allowed to perfect rhyme is that at the center and fulcrum point of the puzzle, there may be a possessive “s.” The answer to “White whale’s home haircutting gizmo,” then, would be “Moby[’s] Flowbee.”

These are hard, and of course no one has the time (or probably the inclination) to wade through all of them, so the prize this time—either a year’s subscription to CR or a year’s extension of a present subscription—will go to the first two people who send at least forty correct answers. We’ll post the answers in a week or so.

I have another sixty nearly ready for the upcoming Fall/Winter issue, as well; we’ll continue to have a puzzle feature in every issue, but not all will be crosswords. And if there’s sufficient interest out there, my plan next month is to do a second web feature in which we offer readers’ hink pinks. If you’re interested in participating in that (making them up can turn obsessive, too, so fair warning), please send your puzzles along to michael[dot]griffith[at]uc.edu.


  • What the Vienna Secession painter did to his GTO for the auto show (hink pink)
  • New NFL instant replay tool sponsored by a pioneering hip-hop label (hinky pinky)
  • Featured instrument in alt-country band The Beheaded Queen (hinkily pinkily)
  • Internet discussion board for boosters of an ex-Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate (hinkily pinkily)
  • Puzzlemaster is cruising for a lawsuit by wearing those wee denims (hinky pinky—all rhyme)
  • Yale deconstructionist, pony up what you owe to the self-deprecating comedienne! (hinklediddledoo pinklediddledoo)
  • What golfer Michelle insisted on before she married legendary basketball coach Adolph (hinky pinky)
  • Periods of time Assange’s group devoted to divulging web secrets of ex-Monkee Dolenz (hinkily pinkily)
  • “Friends in Low Places” singer’s metafiction collection (hinky pinky)
  • The Man in Black’s soiree for a Greek elevator-music star (hinkily pinkily)
  • Porous yellow guy’s stint in ‘90s Seattle music (hinky dinky)
  • Wearer of a multicolored belled cap embroidered with an A (hinky pinky)
  • Postgame Nawlins-style sandwich in Mudville (hinky pinky)
  • Poultry Viagra (hinky pinky)
  • ’90s sitcom namesake’s Vulcan-style telepathic linking with Tinkerbell (hinklediddle pinklediddle)
  • Part of a cartoon shark’s contract that requires the studio to have soured unpasteurized milk on hand? (hinkily pinkily)
  • Even on his ambulance stretcher, hipster Sanders diehard has Americanos lined up (hinkily pinkily)
  • Red-haired obstacle-course competitor, in Boston (hinky pinky)
  • Nubbly bedspread of a 1970s songstress who was the former Mrs. Dragon (hinky pinky)
  • Calvin Broadus’ chowder hard-sell (hinky pinky)
  • Basso-voiced villain: “Wayne’s World co-host, adieu!” (hinky pinky)
  • Sharpshooting LA Clipper, first-aid provider to those injured by a current fad dance (hinklediddle pinklediddle)
  • Nora Charles, dump that Gentile! (hinkily pinkily)
  • Herb from WKRP haz buttery pizzeria treats (hinkily pinkily)
  • Superman nemesis who’s paranoid that we’ve all been lied to—LIED TO!—about the birds and the bees (hinkily pinkily)
  • Onetime prop comedian, now policing European polecats (hinkily pinkily)
  • Revolutionary leader since 1959 errs in opening a gourmet bar & grill (hinkily pinkily)
  • Trail mix at sci-fi speed  (hink pink)
  • Elegant appeal a harem-pants-wearing rapper derives from his fermented Korean side dish (hinklediddle pinklediddle)
  • “Why did the chicken have sex with the road?”, e.g. (hinky pinky)
  • Glass receptacle, located in a Tanzanian archipelago, for money to help a former Who’s the Boss? star now down on his luck (hinkily pinkily)
  • NBA’s first great center, on a mountain ramble, snaps photos of mosslike composites with his expensive Japanese camera (hinklediddle pinklediddle—all rhyme)
  • Place to which the viewer’s eye is drawn in a painting of a rustic honky-tonk (hinkily pinkily)
  • Colombian pop star’s exodus from Mecca (hinkily pinkily)
  • “OK, I’m givin’ up. No more saying ‘nevermore.’” (hinky pinky)
  • Mayberry-born Marine’s designer-knockoff glass tube for a Magus’s resin (hinkily pinkily)
  • Widespread terror about a communist plot to make us all look as though we’ve just risen from naps (hinky pinky)
  • Foxy Brown’s canned-meat phobia (hinky pinky)
  • Infamous dognapper’s measles-infected Caddy (hinklediddledoo pinklediddledoo)
  • “Friends in Low Places” singer’s metafiction collection (hinky pinky)
  • Umlaut-happy rock-band frontman’s criminally good bargain on multicolored fabric (hinky pinky)
  • The Man in Black’s soiree for a Greek elevator-music star (hinkily pinkily)
  • The Human Highlight Film is looking for fanatical devotees of the Wonder Twins’ monkey (hinky pinky)
  • What to say to a budding wizard fencing with Gabe Kaplan (hinklediddle pinklediddle)
  • Penny-ante philippic from Ace Frehley or Peter Criss (hinky pinky)
  • Moment of maximum shame for a fooled ice defenseman (hink pink)
  • An Austrian logician goes bad in the fridge (hinky pinky)
  • Archie Leach’s wedding trousers (hinkily pinkily)
  • Exercise monitor exclusively for poststructuralists or their ilk (hinky pinky)
  • White House scandal: President’s sham South American camelid (hinkily pinkily)
  • Murray/Merrill portrayer mildly criticizes instances of Jewish prayer (hinkily pinkily)
  • Von Richthofen, cuttin’ back on his daily pills (hinkily pinkily)
  • Group of trucks hauling 007’s ornamental fish (hinky pinky)
  • Part of Lady Spencer’s tennis outfit, that time at the Kennedy compound (hinkily pinkily)
  • S&M equipment purchasable, in spotted-horse pattern, at 30,000 feet (hinkily pinkily—slight cheat in the rhyme)
  • Result of HMS Beagle naturalist’s high bid on a Bundren child’s flivver (hinkily pinkily)
  • A certain Stalag commander’s springtime sexual idiosyncrasy (hinkily pinkily)
  • Lord Greystoke, forbid custard tarts! (hinky dinky)
  • Ornithologist has snared an icon of 1970s cool (hinkily pinkily)
  • Result of bowdlerizing a famed NYC street photographer’s work to make it safe for children (hinky pinky, all rhyme)








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