St. Paul is having a gnome search. At first I saw the headline as a "genome search," because it's 2021 now and we're all thinking about such things. I have to find the COVID genome, in the park? With riddles?

By a place once favored by Prince

You'll find my whole gene sequence

Then everyone would go to Paisley Park and root around in the snow for tiny strands of DNA. "Found it! Oh, shoot no, it's just someone's discarded dental floss."

No, it's not the genome they're looking for, but gnomes made out of small firs, tucked away in parks for people to find. Why does St. Paul always do these charming things? Minneapolis might just think it's too cool to have anything to do with partially obscured gnomes. It's not on brand.

Here's one of the gnome clues. It makes me feel utterly inadequate as a Twin Citian, because it seems a little vague.

Winter's come home

Summer's out of reach

Look for this gnome

At a park with a beach

There are those who will read that, nod, say "Get your coat" to their partner and drive right to a specific location 16 paces from the old oak where Harold Stassen tripped over a root in 1947. But I'm lost.

Still, that doesn't matter because this is just my way of reviving an evergreen tradition for this column, which is offering fake clues for a winter scavenger hunt that is not happening. Ready?

By the s'mores of Gitche Gumee

Where the owl's right eye is rheumy

In a box almost octagonal

At an angle quite orthogonal

You shall see the winter prizes

Six minutes after Venus rises

You might well say, "Duh, the gate to the dog park south of the falls. I'd go, but it's so obvious that there's gonna be a crowd. Give me a tough one."

Well, then, try this.

Hie thee to Hennepin, skip toward the Walker

Check your belongings in the north lobby locker

Notice the flier advertising a dance

Stick a small art piece down into your pants

When caught by a guard explain you were joking

Note if he asks just what you've been smoking

You sigh: "Yes, yes, obviously the Hennepin County Center, which banned cigarettes in public spaces in the early '70s, establishing a trend for the rest of the country. The obvious clue was 'Skip Walker,' the name of the worker who first put up the signs banning smoking. Can we please have a tough clue?"


It's there. Right there.

It's practically in front of you.

If it were a snake, it would bite you.

No, there! I can't believe this.

Follow my finger! My dog is smarter!

That's not it.

Do I have to draw you a map?

There you go. Good luck. The first person to find it gets $1, and if you're wondering why the prize is so scant for a nonexistent contest, it's because lawyers exist in the world. They might not be able to find a gnome, but they can find a legally binding contract in this column. • Twitter: @Lileks