Lateral with Tom Scott

Comedy panel game podcast about weird questions with wonderful answers, hosted by Tom Scott.

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Episode 39: Dare you brave this shopping mall?

Published 7th July, 2023

Ruth Amos and Shawn Brown ('Kids Invent Stuff') and Dani Siller ('Escape This Podcast') face questions about slapdash squiggles, poster positioning and fishy football fixtures.

HOST: Tom Scott. QUESTION PRODUCER: David Bodycombe. RECORDED AT: The Podcast Studios, Dublin. EDITED BY: Julie Hassett. MUSIC: Karl-Ola Kjellholm ('Private Detective'/'Agrumes', courtesy of ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Santiago, Dave, Richard Stamp, Dani Siller, Casimir Hudak, Sander Famil. FORMAT: Pad 26 Limited/Labyrinth Games Ltd. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: David Bodycombe and Tom Scott.


Transcription by Caption+

Tom:Which part of the human body doesn't actually exist? The answer to that at the end of the show. My name's Tom Scott, and this is Lateral.

Our guests on the show today are like walking encyclopædias full of interesting facts about everything from reproductive cycles of house flies to the history of paperclips. Just don't ask them where they've put their car keys.

We start with a returning guest to the show, one of our regulars from Escape This Podcast, Dani Siller, welcome back.
Dani:Thank you. Alone this time. I'm alone, and I'm scared.
Tom:Yes, normally at this point, we have Bill from the show here as well. Now, he will be appearing at some point in this recording block, but this time, we've split you up a little bit. How are you feeling about not having the backup there?
Dani:Bizarrely terrified. When we do escape rooms, it's always, you wanna be the one who solves the puzzles, but it is nice to have that other person there so that if you are looking at something and you don't get it, you can just hand it off. So, I hope the other guests can be that saviour for me as well.
Tom:Well, they are also gonna be sort of that for each other, because we have a pair of folks joining us here. We're gonna start from Kids Invent Stuff, Shawn Brown, hello.
Shawn:Hello, lovely to be here.
Tom:Welcome to the show. This is your first time here. How are you feeling?
Shawn:Yeah, I'm nervous. I'm not entirely sure what to expect, but I'm excited.
Tom:I mean, that also kinda sums up your channel there. Do you wanna talk a little bit about Kids Invent Stuff? 'Cause it's a format that I just love.
Shawn:So yeah, me and Ruth have a YouTube channel where primary school kids – so, kids age 4–11 – they draw their invention ideas, they send 'em to us. and every month, we pick one of their ideas and bring it to life. And I'm sure Ruth can tell you a little bit about some of the mad things we've made.
Tom:Well, that's a very smooth segue that I now don't have to improvise, so thank you very much.

Also joining us, the other half of Kids Invent Stuff, Ruth Amos.
Ruth:Hello, thank you for having me.
Tom:I mean, you've just got set up there with a perfect...
Ruth:I know.
Tom:perfect introduction.
Ruth:It's almost like we do this as a job, right? It's almost like we're used to just passing back and forwards. But yeah, I'm the other half of Kids Invent Stuff, and we build, I mean, everything. Loads of people are like, "What do you build on your channel?" And I'm like... farting staircase, popcorn-firing doorbell, seven-foot dinosaur that mops the floor. Giant fairy electric dog cars. You know, if a child can dream it, Shawn and I will try and build it. (laughs)
Dani:How many times do you get, "Oh, why didn't I think of that?" as you find these things?
Ruth:Oh, so sometimes we look and we're like, "This is incredible, and we have to bring it to life." We've recently just built a... a baby walker but for adults to do business in. And I look and so many comments are like, "I need this thing!" So yeah.
Shawn:We have a lot of fun.
Tom:Well, good luck to all three of you on the show today. The questions on this show are so sideways that they play hopscotch with the rules of logic, which is how we keep you all on your toes. So good luck before one of you falls over. We'll skip forward to question one.

This is sent in by Casimir Hudak. Thank you very much to you.

In 1969, Skamania County in Washington, USA made it illegal to hunt something. What was it, and why is that not a silly law?

So one more time.

In 1969, Skamania County, Washington, USA made it illegal to hunt something. What was it, and why was that not a silly law?
Dani:I mean, my first question is why would that be a silly law?
Tom:There's a little bit of working it out in this question.

Also, Skamania County. I don't how it's pronounced. I said ske-mah-nia, something like that. It is just Ska-Mania, which just feels like the early 2000s to me.
SFX:(Shawn and Ruth laugh)
Shawn:Hmm, interesting.
Ruth:I'm so confused by the last bit.
Shawn:I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone who grew up as a— with a father who was a gamekeeper, and I grew up learning to shoot and things, and I'm now a vegan.
Shawn:So this idea of... hunting... is both familiar and something that I guess I do quite a lot less of now than I did when I was younger.
Tom:Yeah, that's fair. The reason the law might be considered silly has nothing to do with veganism or the ethics of shooting animals here.
Shawn:And we're assuming it is animals as well.
Dani:Oh yeah.
Ruth:Is it alive? Is it alive?
Tom:Oh, oh. Now, that is a somewhat existential question here.
Tom:I'm not sure, although I doubt it.
Dani:Things that are possibly alive, but also possibly not.

Viruses. That would be a strange one to make it illegal to hunt.
Shawn:I would've said AI, but AI weren't around in 1969. So...
Dani:Robots! Was it illegal to hunt robots?
Shawn:That would be amazing.
Tom:Weirdly, you are edging a little bit closer there. Not even remotely close. Don't get me wrong. But we're not thinking about traditional game hunting here.
Ruth:But we're moving away from animals, which means we're getting closer.
Tom:Mm-mmh, it's—
Shawn:Is it people? Oh no, that wouldn't have worked. 'Cause you were talking about that people definitely are.
Dani:I mean, it is true. I saw 1969 and I did think, "Hippies?"
Shawn:Yeah, it's not bad. It's not bad.
Tom:Astronauts. I'm trying to think of anything else associated with that. But yeah, it's— Hippies and astronauts basically sums up the late '60s in Washington.

That is a bit of a clue actually. Washington, USA.
Dani:Oh, okay. What do we know about that?
Dani:It's wet.
Shawn:(stammers) So, yeah, is— Does that have anything to do with politics? If it's Washington.
Dani:I think it's the other Washington, right?
Tom:It is the other Washington.
Ruth:I was gonna say, my American geography is not what it should be.
Dani:So we've got Pacific Northwest. Cold, wet. That's literally all I know about it. Okay.
Ruth:Do they have snow? Is it like snowmen?
SFX:(guests chuckling in turn)
Tom:Again, edging ever so slightly closer.
Shawn:So snowmen is closer than AI and robots?
Tom:Yeah, yeah, I'd say so. Abominable Snowman is definitely closer.
Ruth:Is it something that happens in nature?
Ruth:Is it a natural— I don't know, I'm like, tumbleweed. I don't know. I'm trying to think of what you were actually, the moves that you could hunt.
Shawn:Are we talking cryptids?
Tom:Yes, we are.
Shawn:So we're thinking like Bigfoot or Sasquatch, or...
Tom:We're thinking exactly Bigfoot.
Dani:That makes sense.
Tom:Absolutely right. And that's why I was hedging about animals. "Well..." about the existence of it. That's why I was hedging about everything he said. 'Cause yeah, this might not exist.

So yeah. Part one, Bigfoot, absolutely right.

Part two, why is making it illegal not to hunt—
Ruth:(gasp) Because the things they think are Bigfoot are usually humans or animals. You know, I saw a video somewhere like, "This is Bigfoot." And it was a guy in one of those ridiculous hunting jackets. How many people have been killed by people thinking they're hunting Bigfoot?
Dani:(gasps) I've never thought about that!
Tom:I don't have the exact numbers on if there have been fatalities or injuries or anything like that, but yes. The real reason was to discourage people from roaming the area with guns, shooting at vaguely human-shaped things in the distance.
Ruth:I mean, yes, that does make a lot of sense, doesn't it?
Dani:It's a horrifying, haunting sense, yes.
Tom:They later described the area as a Sasquatch refuge. And that anyone would be punished by up to a year of jail time or a $1,000 fine if they went out with the intention to hunt Bigfoot.
Ruth:I mean, that's what would, you know, if they knew about Bigfoot and they knew it lived in the area, that's what they would be doing to protect Bigfoot, right?
Tom:Oh, absolutely. That's a tourist attraction right there.
Ruth:Yeah, yeah.
Dani:And Shawn, how many times did potentially hunting cryptids come up in your childhood?
Shawn:It didn't actually, no. Oxfordshire is notoriously low on the ground when it comes to Sasquatches. Is that the plural of Sasquatch?
Shawn:Sasquai. I mean there were the obvious Bigfoot— Bigfoot?— big cat sightings. Which yeah, which there are lots. And a family friend—
Tom:Yeah, you guys got a lot of big feline cryptids, hasn't it? The Beast of Bodmin and loads of— which I assume are just big domestic cats.
Shawn:So there is, yeah— So a family friend who used to go get— who was a marksman used to get called on by DEFRA to go and silently dispatch various large felines that would occur in rural parts of Wales. So there are certainly— There certainly have been some actual big cats that were, I think, kept as pets in private collections and then released. That feels like a Tom Scott video, to be honest.
Tom:I thought all of those were fictional.
Ruth:No, I think some of these are true.
Tom:Wow, okay.
Ruth:Rich people with their big houses and their ten tigers, and then they die. Or a tiger gets out and there we go. Panthers, wasn't it? I think panthers might've been the main thing.
Tom:Yes, in 1969, Skamania County in Washington banned the hunting of Bigfoot to help save lives.

Each of our guests has brought along a question of their own, and today we're gonna start with Shawn. Whenever you're ready, give us your question.
Shawn:Okay, thank you. So this listener question was sent in by Richard Stamp. And the question is:

In 1852, a relaunch party – featuring sword swallowers, fire eaters and singers – was thrown to promote a new shopping arcade. You could even buy trinkets that celebrated your courage by visiting. What made shopping there a test of the nerve?

So in 1852, a relaunch party – featuring sword swallowers, fire eaters, and singers – was thrown to promote a new shopping arcade. You could even buy trinkets that celebrated your courage by visiting. But what made shopping there a test of nerve?
Tom:For some reason, my brain is stuck on Meadowhall. Which is the big ol' shopping centre.
Ruth:Very near me. It's very near me, Meadowhall. It's horrific.
Tom:Oh, yeah. It's the first big out-of-town shopping mall that opened in the north of England. It opened in the '90s, when I was a kid, and, "Oh, new shopping arcade opened." And for some reason, my brain went Meadowhall. 'Cause it's the kind of place where you need— It feels like courage to go in there sometimes.
Ruth:Well, do you know, there's a weird thing. So again, I don't know if this is folklore. I feel like this is based in something, but they weren't sure if Meadowhall would take off. So they built it as a multipurpose venue. So if it failed, it was gonna be a prison. So as you walk around those little corridors... and you see the shops either side...
Ruth:You just think, now I know that, I'm like, "Oh, yeah, it does have very prison qualities." Obviously as a shopping centre, it's done well. So it never turned into a prison, but it was built... with the idea that if it didn't take off, it could be a prison.
Tom:I don't know... Let's be clear. I'm not gonna fact check that. That's a good enough story that whether that's true or false, that's going in the show no matter what. It might be entirely slanderous to Meadowhall!
Ruth:Well, you know, it's like urban myth. And it's one of those things where I feel like someone credible told me it. So I'm like, "You're credible, I'm taking this in." But even if it's not, anyone that's been to Meadowhall can imagine it as a prison, right?
Tom:I had a really weird moment. I was in Germany a few years back. And I just needed to stop by the shopping mall to buy I think some hardware for a thing. And I walk in, and I'm like, "This feels familiar." I've not been in this region before, not having been in anything like this.

And I keep walking and turn, and there is The Oasis, which is the food and... you know, it's the food court bit. Which was called The Oasis in Meadowhall. And my brain suddenly does this sideways clunk. I realise that this is to the same plan. It's the same guy who set it up. I looked it up afterwards. It's like, "This is weird. I'm in a different country, but I've been here before." And it still feels— I mean, it didn't feel like a prison, but now I think back.

Yeah, that abso— Sorry, I got distracted with
Tom:going to a shopping mall in my childhood and being just overwhelmed with people there.
Dani:Yeah, so if not the prison mall situation being what's hazardous here, what else—
Dani:I noticed that we didn't get given a location in this question. So I'm now just trying to think, what are the worst places on earth that this could be?
Tom:We got given 1852.
Dani:Alright, what terrible things were going on in 1852?
Shawn:I like the fact that it's, you know, the important fact in it is it's a relaunch party. I mean, that seems like a—
Dani:Yeah, I noticed that too.
Shawn:It's... I mean, I'm saying that in a general sense.
Tom:So hold on. Was it something that had burned down or been attacked by plague or something like that in the years before?
Shawn:Okay, so I can tell you that it is in the London area.
Dani:Ah, the most hazard spot of them all.
Shawn:Oh, a notorious Hazard spot, London.
Shawn:Yep. Still is to this day.
Ruth:So then, people got... something for being courageous? Is that what it said?
Shawn:So you could buy trinkets that celebrated your courage for visiting.
Ruth:Okay, so... having just had COVID— not COVID, but the COVID era and it's continuing this, but do you know what I mean? The first few things that reopened, is it something like that? Was there some horrific thing, and the aim is to get people back out and be like, "Well done, you risked the plague to buy some sausages."
Dani:Oh, that's why you were saying plague. I wondered why that was in your head.
Tom:I think the plague was earlier. I think plague and fire were both 17th century. This is a couple centuries later.

Is it anything to do with the frost fair? 'Cause there used to be— The Thames used to have frost fairs, which is when the Thames froze over... then they would have places to go on the ice. There would be... people would go skating. There would be people selling stuff with little pop-up tents and venues and things on the ice. But about that time, it was starting to melt sometimes. It wasn't safe to go out there. So was this one really cold winter, and they're like, "Come on out. It's safe on the ice now. You absolutely won't fall through."
Ruth:And they only lost four people.
Shawn:So, it's not that, but thinking in terms of sort of, in terms of kind of physics and the sort of structure of things is a useful, yeah, a useful way to be going.
Dani:I'm glad it wasn't that, because didn't the question mention that they had a lot of fire going on during these celebrations?
Tom:Good point, well made. Never mind. (laughs)
Ruth:Fire, swords...
Tom:Fire and sword s'all— It's really hard to say 'sword swallowers'!
Ruth:Sword swallowing.
Dani:The trick is, you can only say it properly if you have a sword in your mouth.
SFX:(Tom and Shawn laugh)
Dani:Little known fact. Okay, so some other structurally unsound thing. What are the most horribly built places in London?
Ruth:When were the bridges built? I mean, I'm saying bridges, but were there any— I'm looking at Tom as the fountain of all knowledge. Bridges in London. When were they built? Go, go, go, go.
Tom:I'm not Jay Foreman!
Dani:I have it on good authority, London Bridge fell down.
Ruth:Yeah, exactly!
Tom:It could be the old London Bridge. Because that was just— It was this massive structure that just gained more and more and more things on it. It became a road that was over the river. One of the reasons the frost fairs happened is because that bridge was so big in terms of foundation that it slowed the entire Thames up until that point. But I still think that was centuries earlier than that? I feel like 1852 is too late for anything like that.
Shawn:Okay, so it's not a bridge, but it does concern a new piece of engineering.
Tom:Oh, I should know this. I've spent 10–12 years in London. 1852 and it's not new engineering. It's not Tower Bridge then, 'cause that was about—
Ruth:When was the Tube? Or underground stuff?
Dani:Ooh, interesting.
Tom:Could it be one of the Brunel tunnels or something? Was it the first tunnel under the Thames? 'Cause I know that was... That was tiny, it can't be that.
Ruth:Or was it something crazy like having your picture taken? 'Cause people back then thought— I'm trying to think when... Time, not my thing. D'you know what I mean? Is there a new tech that people could try at this event? And then—
Tom:Escalators? Escalators.
Tom:There was the shopping— That's too early. 1852 is too early for escalators, isn't it? I just remember there being a guy hired who had one leg, and his job was to go up and down the escalators for the entire first few days just to prove that it was a thing that it was safe to go on. But I don't think they opened the escalators with sword swallowing and music. That's not a shopping arcade.
Ruth:An escalator did once eat my shoe.
Dani:Yeah, sorry. How does that make sense? You have an escalator person saying, "Trust me, it's perfectly safe. Don't look at the fact that I'm missing a leg. That's got nothing to do with it."
Ruth:The escalator didn't eat the leg.
Tom:Did you say an escalator once ate your shoe there, Ruth?
Ruth:Yes, yes, at the Atlanta Convention Center. I was there for an event called Intel ISEF, which is like, think of Mr. and Miss— What's the male version of that? Miss and Mr. World, but for geeks. And I had these little shoes on, and it got caught in the escalator and dragged in, and it crushed my foot. And when they opened the escalator... there were lots of shoes in there. So I was not the first person this happened to.
Shawn:The shoe graveyard.
Dani:You've just affirmed a lot of people's childhood fears.
Ruth:Oh yeah.
Shawn:So I didn't want to interrupt, 'cause everyone was getting very excited. But Tom did mention one of the things that is the correct answer. So we were talking about—
Tom:Meadowhall, it's Meadowhall.
Shawn:(laughs) It's not the—
Shawn:It's not the 1852 relaunch of Meadowhall, I'm afraid, Tom.
Dani:(laughs) Oh god.
Tom:I can't remember what I was rambling about.
Ruth:Tunnels, tunnels and escalators.
Dani:Yep, okay.
Tom:Tunnels. It's gotta be the first tunnel under the Thames or something like that.
Shawn:Yep, you've hit the nail on the head. So...
Shawn:It was the relaunch of the 1843 Thames Tunnel as a shopping centre, or shopping arcade.
Ruth:Oh, I was gonna say what happened the first time they launched it, that they had to relaunch it, but they were adding features, right?
Shawn:Yeah, so it was this pedestrian tunnel connecting Wapping to, is it Rotherhithe? I think that roth-er-hi-th is the way to pronounce it.
Ruth:I love we're getting Shawn – the least fan of London – to pronounce all the London names.
Tom:Matt Gray, who's a friend of ours, consistently pronounces it rather-hither.
Shawn:That's better.
Tom:Which has just stuck in my head forever.
Shawn:That is better. "Come rather-hither." It works.
Dani:Now, be warned. I've never heard of a lot of these places, so I'm learning this from you people.
Shawn:(laughs) So the first tunnel, Thames Tunnel, it was seen as a bit of a flop. And it was sort of— It became known for crime and prostitution. So not the, you know, I guess the kind of vibe they were initially going for.
Shawn:And, so they relaunched it as a tourist destination, the world's first underground shopping arcade.
Tom:I've actually walked through that tunnel. I think it was 2013, '14, something like that. It was being refurbished for railway works. And so there was just this brief period of two weeks where they led tours through it. And I'm exactly the sort of nerd that would go for that. I didn't know it had ever been a shopping mall. I thought it was always just a tunnel-tunnel.
Ruth:Did it remind you of Meadowhall?
Tom:I mean, I wouldn't wanna stay too long there, so, yes.
Shawn:So yeah. And some of the trinkets that they had, they sold there were pin cushions and snuff boxes. And they were specifically sort of marketed as trophies to show off your bravery for basically being a Victorian person who'd travelled underneath a river. That seemingly yeah, that was sort of a thing that was seen as a dangerous or... an unusual thing to do.
Dani:I mean, that's totally fair. I still feel a little bit odd every time I drive under Sydney Harbour in the tunnel there. You just see little drips of water and wonder, should I be concerned about that?
Shawn:So the relaunch party was indeed for the 1843 Thames Tunnel, a pedestrian tunnel under the Thames.
Tom:Next question's from me then. Good luck, folks.

Legend is a 2015 film about the Kray twins, some notorious London gangsters. After a poor review by The Guardian newspaper, why were two stars prominently displayed at the top-centre of the film's poster?

I'll give you that one more time.

Legend is a 2015 film about the Kray twins, some notorious London gangsters. After a poor review by The Guardian newspaper, why were two stars prominently displayed in the top-centre of the film's poster?
Dani:Alright, who's gonna out themselves as not being much of a movie person? Because yeah, I have fragments of knowledge about this, but I haven't seen it.
Tom:You don't need to see it for this. And frankly, it's a violent and... Eh, it's an okay film. I wouldn't say you have to. You definitely do not have to watch it for this question.
Dani:I'm pretty sure that when it happened, when that movie came out, and I saw little bits of buzz about it, all that made me do was go, "Man, a lot of people are talking about these Krays. I guess I should look up who they are. That sounds like good trivia." And I can't remember any of that either.
Shawn:So, I have seen this movie. And one of the standout things was that it features a double Tom Hardy...
Dani:Mmm. him playing both brothers. And I do remember reading an article about it where people were discussing whether it was— it should be the done thing or not to cast an actor as both twins, or whether it would be more equitable to hire existing identical twins to play identical twin roles.
Dani:It's like they've never even seen the Freaky Friday with Lindsay Lohan.
Shawn:That's exactly it.
Dani:Not Freaky Friday. That's not what I mean.
Ruth:Parent Trap, Parent Trap.
Dani:Thank you, thank you.
Tom:Everyone jumped in to correct you on that, because apparently our knowledge of Disney remakes is way, way better than it is for violent gangster films.
Ruth:I blame being stuck at home with Disney+ for that. I just relived all my childhood films. I don't remember Legend being on Disney+.
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:If it is, I'll be very surprised.
Dani:But it does feel like the fact that one man played both leading roles does feel like something that could have caused someone confusion that led to something funny in the review.
Shawn:They are very distinctly different characters. He does a good job of portraying the two characters very differently. And one wears glasses I think, which probably helps matters.
Dani:(chuckles) Wished it saying, "Oh man, one of them is such a better actor than the other."
Shawn:So the only reason I ever went and watched Legend, and I did— I sought it out, because I have a hairdresser/barber who is completely obsessed with Tom Hardy to the point that she opened a hair salon, and she had pictures of Tom Hardy on the wall with different haircuts. And people would come in and point at them and go, "I want that Tom Hardy hair."
Shawn:And she raved about just how amazing this film was. She's like, "You have to see it. It's an incredible film." And I went, I sought out to go watch it. And, similar to you, Tom, I just kind of thought it was a bit meh.
Tom:Did those pictures include Tom Hardy in Star Trek: Nemesis, where he's playing a young Patrick Stewart and has his head completely shaved bald?
Shawn:They didn't, but I wish they had done. And then, she moved premises not that long ago, and I promptly commented on where the Tom Hardy pictures were, which were one of the key selling points.
Tom:I'm gonna drag us back to the question here. It unfortunately does not have anything to do with Tom Hardy.
Tom:And when I say stars, I mean literal star ratings. It's not, there were two stars on the poster. Both played by the same person. Literally, they—
Ruth:Is it to do with how violent it is? Do I remember— I have seen this film, but it was— but I just remember the Kray twins were pretty... yeah, pretty horrific, right?
Tom:It's gruesome. But in this case, no. They put the two stars from the two-star review front and centre in that poster.
Dani:Oh, so it was just the stars themselves made a good feature on the poster?
Tom:There were other reviews on the poster too. There were four and five star reviews all over it.
Ruth:But it was just the stars. It wasn't what they said next to the stars.
Tom:Nope, just: star rating, place; star rating, place; star rating, place. Loads of fives and fours. And then this one two-star rating right in the middle.
Dani:Now what were the Kray twins famous for? What was their big thing? Just to make sure I don't say anything ridiculous.
Tom:I mean, crime. Let's just sum it up as crime. Just a lot of crime.
Dani:I wondered if there was one big crime. Okay, two stars from the London Police Department.
Tom:(laughs) No, they did credit The Guardian for its review here.
Dani:I thought maybe they just didn't enjoy the reminder of the bad days.
Tom:But you're also right that there being two stars of the movie is kind of relevant here as well.
Ruth:Is it to do with the fact that Tom Hardy played both characters, or are we ignoring that?
Tom:No, you could do this with any two actors.
Ruth:Could you have one star above both of their heads?
Tom:Close, not quite.
Dani:I was trying to picture... sherrify badges or something. They might have stars. What else could have stars?
Ruth:Does each Tom Hardy character get naked?
Tom:(laughs) Not on this poster!
Ruth:Okay, I was gonna say, 'cause he's known for that. I wonder if the stars kept him modest or something.
Dani:That's exciting.
Ruth:(laughs) Yeah! Dani's like, "Sign me up. I'll watch that again."
Tom:You're closer in that it's definitely... an interaction between... the photos there and the star ratings.
Tom:I just want you to imagine a wall of stars on here. You've got five stars, five stars, four stars, four stars, all the way down this poster. And then right in the middle, there's a two-star one.
Ruth:Does it spell something?
Shawn:Is there a gunshot? Like some kind of wound? They punched it or shot it or something?
Tom:They were very carefully placed.
Ruth:Is it around two people's heads? So they've got their heads, and it's 5, 5, 4, 4, – 2 – 4, 4, 5, 5?
Tom:I think I'm gonna give it to you, Ruth. I think you're close enough that I'm gonna give it to you.
Tom:There's five stars and four stars, and then there's these two stars. And you're right, Ruth. The heads are right next to them. Implying that they are covering up a four or five star review.
Tom:They have just put the two stars right in the middle next to their heads, with a four-star above and a four-star below where their necks give a bit more room. And they have just covered up... what you would assume would be two other stars that aren't actually there with their heads.
Dani:That's ridiculous. We were so sure that it was gonna be the stars are manipulating the picture somehow, but not the other way 'round!
Ruth:Yeah, it was an artistic choice or something.
Dani:Oh, that's crafty. Yeah, we were all up on stars covering up someone's nipples, but...
SFX:(group laughing)
Tom:But not stars covering up stars. Yeah, the Guardian review writer has said, "I might still dislike Legend, but I like its marketing team. If only they could have written the script."
Tom:Our next question comes from Ruth. Whenever you're ready.
Ruth:Okay, so this is a listener question, and it's been sent in by Dave from Ohio. Ohio? Ohio.

In 1985, 101 people accepted an invitation from Michael Detnaw of Flagship International Sports TV to attend the sold-out Redskins v Bengals football game. Those 101 people soon found out – to their dismay – that they all had something in common. What was it?

I'm gonna read it again.

In 1985, 101 people accepted an invitation from Michael Detnaw [of] Flagship International Sports TV, to attend the sold-out Redskins v Bengals football game. Those 101 people soon found out – to their dismay – that they all had something in common. What was it?
Tom:So I was trying to— I think— I think all of us were trying to write down that question, which is new.
Dani:Oh yeah.
Tom:Everyone was taking notes there, and I tried to abbreviate Flagship International Sports TV, and what I got was FIST. Which is probably not what they were going for, and not relevant to the question. I just wrote that down.
Ruth:It is relevant actually.
Tom:Oh! Wow!
Dani:I do guarantee you, it is likely that all 101 people did indeed have fists.
Ruth:Yeah, yeah. I'm really glad that I got given this question. 'Cause as soon as I read it, I was like, "I know what that is." So I was like, "Ooh, yeah."
Shawn:So I think— I think I might have some sense of what this is.
Tom:I'm glad someone does.
Shawn:Possibly. I'm not sure specifically if I— So I've heard about the— I think I've heard about this phenomenon before in the context of the Super Bowl. Ruth, is it police entrapment basically we're talking about here? (stammers) Are these people wanted criminals?
Tom:I have heard that story.
Ruth:Yes, I know! As soon as I saw it. I blame TikTok, but as soon as I saw it, I was like, "Oh, I've seen this!" Because, I mean, writing the things down is good because Flagship International Sports TV is a fake organisation, and it was set up by the Fugitive Investigative Strike Team. I mean, the clues are everywhere, right?
Tom:Oh someone's gonna have been really clever. It's a clever little trick, sure. But someone's really proud of that!
Ruth:Oh yeah. Michael Detnaw doesn't exist. And his last name is 'Wanted' backwards. I mean...
SFX:(others clamouring)
Ruth:I feel like anyone that looked at this was like, what?

So some of the police officers, they even dressed up as mascots. People took this very seriously. They dressed up as mascots, Redskin fans, cheerleaders, and they even, to motion the guests – the 'guests', the special – So I think at first, they sent letters out to 3,000 people. And 101 turned up to the game. And the sting, called Operation Flagship, remains one of the most successful mass arrests of wanted criminals in history.
Tom:How did they get the invitations to them?
Ruth:They literally wrote to them.
Tom:Yeah, but that means they know their addresses!
Dani:That implies they know where you are!
Ruth:They sent a letter, they sent a letter.
Dani:But why wouldn't they go to them?
Tom:Why wouldn't they just go to the addresses?
Ruth:Cause that takes, I think, no resources. You know, going to 101 different people. They sent 'em to 3,000 people. Could you imagine if all 3,000 of them turned up? That would've been impressive. 101's impressive.
Dani:That's true, I suppose. It's only 2,899 houses to go to now.
Ruth:Exactly, yeah.
Tom:Also, presumably they sent it to last known address. So it might be forwarded on, or it might be the house of a relative or something like that. And they'd have passed on, "Oh, you got a free ticket to the game", and...
Ruth:So if you've ever done anything bad and someone invites you somewhere, think, "Am I gonna get arrested?"
Tom:(laughs heartily) Didn't this happen with cable TV or something as well? They sent out an offer for a... I can't remember the details. My producer's gonna prompt me in a minute, no doubt. But there's def— This has definitely been used a few times for—

Yeah, thank you. The free cable TV for a free T-shirt offer. So they'd write back with their details to claim the T-shirt, and would then... get arrested instead. That's...
Dani:Should have known this happened a lot of times, because it made it onto The Simpsons as one of the opening gags.
Tom:Wait, really?
Dani:Oh, yeah. The police in Springfield send out a thing to all the criminals that they know saying they've won a free motorboat at the police "raffle" or something about that.
Ruth:So that was how the police caught 101 criminals by inviting them to a football game.
Tom:Our next question was sent in by Sander Famil. Thank you very much.

In 1990, a range of playing cards were released that contained an errant scribble through the letters "T-E-R" on the back design. Despite that, the squiggle and an out-of-date blue logo remain unchanged to this day. Why?

So one more time.

In 1990, a range of playing cards were released that contained an errant scribble through the letters "T-E-R" on the back design. Despite that, the squiggle and an out-of-date blue logo remain unchanged to this day. Why?
Ruth:Is it a signature of some sort? A squirrel— A squirrel—? It's not squirrel, it's a scribble. That'd be very different. (giggles)
Dani:Yeah, they left it on there. It must have... still been in some sort of acceptable form that they went, "Eh, yeah, we can say that it's a signature, why not?" Or something along those lines.
Ruth:Are the letters important?
Tom:There is a certain subset of our audience who will be absolutely screaming the answer right now. But it's a very, very small subset.
Ruth:We should really play this out a little bit, just so that they get even more annoyed.
Dani:And Tom, I'm pretty sure you have said that at least once in every episode that I have been on here.
Dani:It's haunting me now.
Tom:Oh, I can't have a catchphrase, dammit.
Dani:Okay, so there's gotta be some word, some company name, something or other, that did have the letters "T-E-R" at the end, and for some reason doesn't anymore or shouldn't have, and somehow they still got printed like this anyway. Do we need to know playing card companies? That would mean nothing to me except for Nintendo back in the day.
Tom:I think you'll have heard of this one.
Dani:Oh dear. What's the famous one that does all the cards?
Shawn:It's not Top Trumps, is it? Is that n— Is that too—
Tom:It's not, but you have moved away from a deck of 52 cards here.
Shawn:Hmm, interesting. Often pondered about the name Top Trumps in the context of Donald Trump, and whether their sales have gone down. But that's even more of a detour. And that T-E-R. We're assuming it's at the end of another word. Not just on its own.
Dani:Oh, good point. I really did.
Tom:No, you are right there. It's at the end of another word.
Shawn:Okay, that's a good assumption.
Dani:What are some words that end with -TER that could be relevant here? Especially companies.
Tom:Oh, you're not gonna get the word. You are 100% not gonna get the word.
Dani:Interesting. Should we be focusing on this blue logo perhaps that hasn't existed since I was born, I wonder?
Tom:I think the best way to attack this question is to figure out why they would've never changed that in any reprints or later versions.
Dani:So now I'm just writing the letters T-E-R over and over again and crossing them out in different ways, and to see if it looks like anything.
Shawn:And could it be that they're not changing it, 'cause they were highly collectible, or because they were... That was like... They're like stamps where they get misprinted, and they become more valuable or more sought after because of the era. Or it's become an iconic thing.
Tom:You're definitely in the right areas there, Shawn.
Dani:Did it become more iconic and desired by a certain subset of people? Or was it just a novelty for everyone?
Tom:It was a misprint. But it was a misprint they then have had to do every single time they printed cards since.
Ruth:So you can buy cards like it now?
Tom:You can buy a lot of cards like this now.
Dani:That's curious.
Ruth:We obviously all don't do enough gambling. I feel like we'd have got this much quicker if we were down the casino.
Shawn:So... could it be some kind of collectors' card rather than a card— Oh, you did say it was a game though, didn't you? Rather than a... So they're not gonna be baseball cards. Or you can play baseball cards, can't you?
Tom:You're getting closer there with collectible things there, Shawn. These are very collectible.
Ruth:Pokémon cards.
Shawn:Pokémon cards.
SFX:(both laughing)
Tom:You're now getting very close. But this is 1990.
Dani:Yeah, what was the— Yeah, what predated Pokémon cards by a few years?
Ruth:All I can remember is that game where you had the circles. What were they called? And you... Pogs.
Shawn:Remember Pogs? (chuckles) Americans don't know about Pogs, do they? That was a thing.
Tom:Yeah, they do. That's an American thing. They don't know about Tazos.
Shawn:Oh, that's right. It's Tazos.
Shawn:Yeah, yeah. 'Cause they're the ones that fit together, weren't they?
Dani:I have a gap in my knowledge between baseball cards and Pokémon cards. And I feel like that's about a 50-year gap for a lot of people. But I dunno how long baseball cards actually stayed in fashion.
Tom:Okay, here's the bad news. The answer to this question is exactly in that knowledge gap. You have—
Tom:You have managed to route entirely around the answer to this one. Yeah, we're looking for something very much like Pokémon cards that's still being made today.
Ruth:Still being— I was gonna say 1990, I was not collecting anything. I was barely feeding myself so... (huffs)
Dani:Oh goodness, what else is there? How old is Magic: The Gathering?
Tom:And, well, as it happens, about 33 years, Dani.
Shawn:(chuckles snidely)
Dani:Interesting, interesting. Now, hold on. If I'm turning 33 this year, let me count backwards. This could be good news. What could a—

Alright, we got Magic: The Gathering. This feels like a strong step.
Tom:Yes, it is.
Shawn:I'm writing Magic: The Gathering down.
Dani:Loose squiggle, -TER? What is this, though? Oh no, you're right. I'll bet Bill can hear this in the other room and is very mad at me.
Shawn:But there is no -TER in a line in Magic: The Gathering.
Tom:You sure about that?
Shawn:No, it's "Gathering", "TH".
Tom:So, they misprinted the very first Magic: The Gathering cards. Why haven't they changed that since?
Shawn:Oh, would it be some kind of trademark issue?
Ruth:Was it supposed to be called something else?
Tom:So, I'll tell you the ten-letter word, which was "Deckmaster".

Which was the name that Wizards of the Coast, who are the company that make Magic: The Gathering, applied to all their games back then. Now, they don't make most of those anymore, but all of them have that on the back.

It's completely out of date. It's not been used. But why are they still putting it on the back of every card? And why does it still have that misprint going through it?
Dani:Well, now it just seems like a Christmas celebration. That says, "Deckmas."
Tom:(laughs) It's not much. It's just a little squiggle. It's not a big misprint. Just a little squiggle.
Ruth:Oh, if they go— If they have new ones, then you'll know they're newer or older cards. So you can't— They all have to look the same, because if not, it ruins the game.
Tom:Yep. Every single Magic: The Gathering card for 33 years has had to have the exact same back on it. Absolutely right, Ruth. It doesn't matter that they've updated the logo for the game. In all the publicity, on all the box art, everything like that, they've updated the whole logo. But the backs still have to look like they did in 1990 with that misprinted squiggle on them.
Dani:How frustrating for them, I assume.
Ruth:I know, I'm literally, oh! And you know, there'll have been a meeting about whether they should change it, and just at what point do you think, you know... No one will know it. You've only sold a few thousand of these. (giggles)
Tom:So we go to Dani for the next question in the show. Take it away.
Dani:Alright, this one was also sent in by a very big fan of the show. Dare I say, one of the biggest fans of the show that there could have been. Because after so many episodes, I finally tried to write one.
Dani:Let's see how it goes. Fingers crossed for all of us.
Tom:This is either gonna be really, really good or really, really bad.
Dani:How much should I have just come up with a pseudonym for this? Let's find out.
Tom:And now this one's been sent in by Sani Diller.

In 1940, the British government's Ministry of Supply introduced a compulsory public initiative that drew a counter-protest from the British Records Association. What was the issue?

And one more time for you.

In 1940, the British government's Ministry of Supply introduced a compulsory public initiative that drew a counter-protest from the British Records Association. What was the issue?
Ruth:So 1940, that's in the war, right?
Tom:Second World War, yeah.
Ruth:So is it something to do with... some sort of records of something, where they think if... if the other side gets hold of them, we're giving over our state secrets?
Tom:What was it, the British Recordings Association? British...
Dani:The British Records Association did the counter-protest against the Ministry of Supply.
Ruth:Is the British Records Association, is that what's now the National Archives?
Tom:Oh, I was thinking recordings as in the music industry, but this is 1940.
Ruth:I was thinking records as in census records and stuff that would now be in the National Archives. I'm looking at Dani. I'm looking at Dani for hints.
Dani:That is a question. One of you is indeed correct.
Ruth:Oh, great.
SFX:(group laughing)
Ruth:It's either music or records of people.
Tom:It's gotta be music, because if it was National Archives, everything then was in-government. They could basically get away with whatever they wanted to internally. They would've just sent an edict over and archived— Everything was being locked up safely for being unboxed in 50 years' time.
Ruth:That's true.
Tom:'Cause I've done research in the National Archives before, and each folder will have lots of stamps on it saying when it can be opened, when it can be eventually released.
Ruth:They have a really cool room in there as well for— that you can do for digital records like that. It's a very— The whole thing, very, very cool.
Tom:But I feel like there wouldn't have been a public protest from another branch of the government. There would've just been a lot of angry memos sent back and forth between civil servants on really thin tracing paper, typewritten by some hardworking secretary somewhere. I've spent a lot of time in the National Archives looking at things like that, and... They archived everything. If you sent a memo from one department to another, you didn't throw it away afterwards. It went and it was filed and it was in a box.

Presumably they're doing the same with emails these days, but also probably not.
Ruth:I don't think they do that anymore. They gave up on that, right, Tom?
Tom:Oh, I hope not. I really hope not.
Dani:My parents run a small business that is all about digital record management. So they go to big companies and government workplaces to get them to do these things properly. I assure you they might be meant to. They don't always.
Shawn:And I guess we haven't actually established whether— which records it was, have we yet either? We got close.
Tom:Okay, it's music records, right? It's vinyl records.
Dani:It is nothing to do with music and that sort of recording. It is closer to archiving.
Tom:Wow, okay.
Ruth:♪ Ahh ♪
Tom:Well that throws out my first guess, which was gonna be, they wanted to melt down the vinyl for reuse in war supply or something like that. Okay.
Ruth:Did they want to do a census?
Dani:No, it wasn't a census. Tom, I wouldn't completely discount that sort of general drain circling there. That's pretty... warmer than you think.
Tom:Incidentally, General Drain Circling worked in the Ministry of Supply.
SFX:(group snickering)
Ruth:Is to do with paper?
Dani:It is to do with paper.
Dani:So what might the Ministry of Supply— They had this compulsory public initiative that was the issue here.
Ruth:Did they wanna hand out books or notebooks or... something else made of paper? Trying to think. Toilet roll.
Tom:It would've been a shortage of something needed for... Yeah, toilet roll.
Dani:Not specifically toilet roll. I won't say that they were necess— that that was necessarily not included in this, but... not specifically that. That was not the problem.
Ruth:Was it to schools?
Dani:Not specifically, no.
Tom:So what are they redirecting? Are they... Oh, this is tickling the back of my brain. There's something about having... things redirected for government use, or maybe moving— requisitioning all the paper in the country or something like that. And I can't remember the story. It's something— The government wanted a load of paper for something, and I can't remember what it was.
Dani:You are absolutely right about what the initiative is. What could they have wanted the paper for? And Shawn, you're right, definitely a war thing.
Shawn:This has gotta be running parallel. It's gotta be running parallel to when they had the scheme where people could have their pets murdered for the war effort. Which is a separate thing.
Ruth:Oh, well...
Shawn:I'm glad it's not that, 'cause that was dark.
Tom:Yeah, it's really dark, and I hate mentioning it, but yeah. That was a thing that happened. It's not a nice piece of Britain's history, that.
Dani:Oh yeah, I didn't know that one.
Shawn:One for another episode.
Dani:Yeah, paper, paper.
Shawn:Paper's better.
Ruth:Was it for maps?
Dani:No, it was actually even... I dunno, less... papery. Apparently paper is just really good for a lot of specific things that you'd want in a war. It gets made into some very good things.
Shawn:And it's not money.
Dani:No, and it's not as— This isn't especially relevant to what caused the counter-protest and things, but apparently paper is very good for things like shell containers and mortar carriers and all sorts of stuff. Just a necessary component for it. And you're absolutely right. There was masses of shortages in supplies, so they did a big old, "Give us your paper."
Ruth:Oh, and then the records were like, "Hang on, if we do that, there'll be no historical records from this time, because everyone will have given them to be turned into things we blow up."
Dani:That was exactly the problem. They started to worry that people would get a little bit too trigger-happy with throwing out their documents. And there were some reports around the place that people were throwing out coroner records. That councils had gotten rid of their accounting books. There was a bunch of things. So they ended up having to give out leaflets saying, "Please, watch out before you throw it out."
Ruth:They handed out paper to stop people handing out— throwing away paper, yeah? Wow.
Dani:They needed to make sure the people had more paper that they could throw away, so they didn't throw out their important ones.
Ruth:Wow. Humans, eh?
Tom:One final thing, then. We have the question I asked right at the very start of the show. Thank you to Santiago for sending this in.

What part of the human body doesn't actually exist?

I hate this question in the best possible way. Thank you Santiago. It's brilliant. Before I give the answer to the audience, does anyone wanna take a quick pot shot at it?
Dani:This is a dirty, dirty pun, isn't it?
Ruth:Is it your soul or something?
Shawn:Deep, deep.
Tom:I mean very, very deep and very philosophical.
Ruth:I went very deep.
Tom:No, everyone here will refer to this part of their body. Everyone knows exactly what this is, and it doesn't really exist. It doesn't really exist... in the sense that it couldn't be dissected.
Ruth:I'd still go with soul. (giggles)
Shawn:You can't dissect a soul.
Tom:I mean, the windows to the soul, possibly.
Ruth:Your eyes?
Tom:One part of them.
Dani:Oh, the pupils, because they're just holes?
Tom:Exactly, the pupil of the eye
SFX:(guests groaning)
Tom:does not— That's the— I thought that's the reaction I'd get, right there!

That is our show. Thank you very much. Let's ask the guests. What's going on with your lives? Where can people find you? What are you doing?

We will start with Ruth.
Ruth:So you can find me over at Kids Invent Stuff. And we've spoken a lot about records, which is not actually a set thing, but I have just guest curated an exhibition around invention at the National Archives! So before the end of October, you could actually visit the Archives, where all the records that didn't get burnt or given to the government when there was a paper shortage.
Shawn:So, yeah, you can check out the crazy things that we make, designed by 4–11 year olds at And yeah, we have our own records of loads and loads of kids' ideas they've drawn and sent to us that we— It's like our own massive archive of kids' drawings, which we're very, very— are very, very precious to us.
Tom:And Dani.
Dani:So my husband Bill and I have a Twitch channel. And one of the things that we have done on that is a mass playthrough of all of the ostensibly kids' games, the Nancy Drew series. Ostensibly, very ostensibly. So that's it, PlayThisGame_Live on Twitch.
Tom:And if you wanna know more about this show, or send in your own listener question, you can do that at There are video highlights every week at, and we are at @lateralcast pretty much everywhere.

With that, it is thank you and good bye to Dani Siller.
Dani:See ya!
Tom:Ruth Amos.
Ruth:Nice to be here.
Tom:And Shawn Brown.
Shawn:Lovely to be here.
Tom:I've been Tom Scott, and that's been Lateral.
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