Besmirching Unbelievable Little Lies Sliding Headlong Into Tolerance: It’s the fact-checker’s way

Published October 11, 2023

Citation needed

Instead of his trademark monocle, a recent redesign of Clue gave what character a brown vest and a white zaddy beard? Colonel Mustard

I am one of those people who’s annoying about board games. What do you expect? I fact-check for a trivia company. I appreciate a game with intricate mechanics and well-made components and thoughtful player interactions, and I’m especially fond of deckbuilding and resource management and the puzzle of untangling and leveraging a board state, and yada yada yada. If you have a friend who knows what a “meeple” is, you’ve heard all this before.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I do not enjoy Clue. What makes a deduction game about unmasking a mysterious murderer more engaging? Surely, it’s random dice rolls and wasted turns going nowhere and learning nothing! But among the Monopolys and Risks and The Game of Lifes of the world, at least Clue has that movie.

Anyway, my top source this week is The Art of Murder, a fansite cataloging the various editions of Clue (or, yes, Cluedo, if you’re anywhere else in the world). Check out the collection of suspect cards, showcasing art across decades and regions. My favorite: The Jetsonesque US 1963 edition. The website hasn’t been updated in over a decade, so it doesn’t include the 2023 redesign—try not to get too hot and bothered with that one.

Rabbit Hole

In 2008, NASA’s Messenger probe did its second fly-by of what barren, moonless planet named for a messenger god? Mercury

“Messenger” is one of the U.S. government’s ever-present backronyms: According to NASA, it stands for “MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging.” These atrocities truly are ever-present: You probably know about the CARES Act, the DREAM Act, and the especially heinous USA PATRIOT Act. But in September ‘23 alone, Congress introduced these crimes against wordplay (yes, they’re all real, and and I had to cull this list down from, like, twenty):

  • GIVE MILK Act (Giving Increased Variety to Ensure Milk Into the Lives of Kids)
  • No CORRUPTION Act (No Congressionally Obligated Recurring Revenue Used as Pensions To Incarcerated Officials Now)
  • CSA OPPORTUNITY Act (Children’s Savings Accounts Offer Parents Plenty Of Reasons To Understand and Invest in Tuition Yearly)

What two sports-entertainment giants recently merged under a company called TKO? UFC and WWE

What about “WWF”? It is true that until 2002, the WWE was known as the WWF, for the World Wrestling Federation. But legal action from the other WWF—y’know, the World Wildlife Fund, save the pandas and all that—prompted Vince McMahon to start an aggressively early-aughts “Get the ‘F’ out” campaign. Personally, I think the World Wildlife Fund should’ve run with it: “Let’s DROPKICK the Degradation of the Planet’s Natural Environment!”

“How’d you three get together, Juilliard?” quipped Joan Rivers at the Beastie Boys, during a talk show appearance promoting what frat-tastic debut that’s still the best selling rap album of the ’80s? Licensed to Ill

I love this interview. Joan gets roasted by the audience for calling the album “License to Kill,” MCA and Ad-Rock take over the desk, and the trio fully lean into the bozo party rocker sensibilities that defined their first album before they moved on to better, more sophisticated things. Give it a watch.

Pedantic Predicaments

According to legend, back in the day outhouses meant for boys had suns carved into the door, while girls got sheds with what now-cliché symbol? Crescent moon

“According to legend” is doing a loooot of work here. Atlas Obscura has a great rundown on why this alleged history is totally made up. But honestly, it doesn’t even pass the first sniff test: Why would settlers with scarce resources bother building two separate outhouses?

In reality, the crescent moon shape probably wasn’t even common until mass media depictions around the ‘60s, perhaps by cartoonists. Every deserted island has exactly one palm tree with exactly two coconuts, and every outhouse has a crescent moon carving. So says the funny pages! Not that it’s necessarily a bad idea: You want a hole for light and ventilation, but also you don’t want any stray neighbors or critters poking their heads in. A slim crescent checks both of those boxes. But it remains unclear why that shape specifically became the ubiquitous symbol for making like a bear in the woods. (There’s some speculation that it’s because of the “mooning” pun, but frankly that feels like Bogus Bell territory again.)

Mark Gartsbeyn is a resident fact-checker at Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. He writes a weekly column on the idiosyncrasies of his work, which appears on Questionist each Wednesday.

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