Don’t Believe the HIPE
Let’s get this party started with a classic word puzzle.
What English word contains four consecutive letters that appear consecutively in the alphabet?
In Mathematical Mind-Benders (AK Peters, 2007), Peter Winkler describes how the puzzle above served as inspiration for a word game.
I and three other high-school juniors at a 1963 National Science Foundation summer program began to fire letter combinations at one another, asking for a word containing that combination… the most deadly combinations were three or four letters, as in GNT, PTC, THAC and HEMU. We named the game after one of our favorite combinations, HIPE.
This seemed like a good game to play with my sons. I explained the game, and then I gave them a simple example to be sure they understood.
They quickly generated a long list of solutions, including:
Since that introduction a few weeks ago, the boys and I have played quite a few games. It’s a good activity to pass the time on a long car ride. The following are some of my favorites:
(these two are fun in tandem)
(the game’s namesake is a worthy adversary)
The practice with my sons has made me a better-than-average HIPE player, so when I recently found myself needing to keep my sons busy while I prepared dinner, I offered the following challenge:
Create a HIPE for me that you think is difficult, and I’ll give you a nickel for every second it takes me to solve it.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Eli attacked the problem with gusto. Fifteen minutes later, he announced, “Daddy, I have a HIPE for you,” and presented me with this:
That was three days ago. Sure, I could use More Words or some other website to find the answer, but that’s cheating. Winkler wrote, “Of course, you can find solutions for any of them easily on your computer… But I suggest trying out your brain first.”
The downside to relying on my brain? This is gonna cost me a fortune.
For your reading enjoyment, I’ve created the following HIPEs. They are roughly in order from easy to hard, and as a hint, I’ll tell you that there is a common theme among the words that I used to create them.
- TRAH (bonus points for finding more than one)
Winkler tells the story of how HIPE got him into Harvard. He wrote “The HIPE Story” as the essay on his admissions application, and four years later, he overheard a tutor who served on the admissions committee torturing a colleague with HIPEs and calling them HIPEs.
I can’t promise that HIPEs will get you into college, but hopefully you’ll have a little fun.