1653: United States Map

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Redirected from 1653)
Jump to: navigation, search
United States Map
It would be pretty unfair to give to someone a blank version of this map as a 'how many states can you name?' quiz. (If you include Alaska and Hawaii, you should swap the Aleutian Islands with the Hawaiian ones.)
Title text: It would be pretty unfair to give to someone a blank version of this map as a 'how many states can you name?' quiz. (If you include Alaska and Hawaii, you should swap the Aleutian Islands with the Hawaiian ones.)


The comic is a map with the (rough) outline of the mainland of the United States of America. At first it looks like the real map, but actually all the states have been shuffled around in it. It seems that Randall took all of the states (minus Alaska and Hawaii, the two states that are not part of this map and are only mentioned in the title text, see below), and then reassembled them in the style of a jigsaw puzzle, with the end result being a map with a similar outline to the original unaltered mainland state map. They can thus be reassembled into the real map as can be seen here (see also the trivia section).

Previously Randall has played with the shapes of the United States in 1079: United Shapes. In that map he did two separate drawings for Michigan with a mitten in the lower part and an eagle in the upper part. Once again in this version he has split Michigan in two, the lower main part, the mitten just labeled Michigan, is on the west coast on part of California's location, but the upper part is located on the east coast over New York's location and has been labeled MI (upper). So even without Hawaii and Alaska, there are 49 "states" in this map, consisting of 47 states plus the two halves of Michigan. In the table below all 49 states in the map has been listed to indicate where the puzzle pieces have been moved to.

It seems at a first glance that the names have been written on the states as they would appear in a normal map, and that they have all then been rotated with the rotation of the states. But this is not the case for all states. For instance it seems like Utah has hardly been moved at all, and with the name written normally this may be intentionally to deceive the readers. Because Utah has been turned upside down, and according to how for instance Texas, clearly turned upside down, has its name written upside down as well, Utah should thus also have been written like that.

It seems likely that this could be a trick by Randall, to see if anyone spots that Utah has actually been moved. But it could of course be a mistake, as seems more likely with Montana where the same "error" has occurred, but since this state has been moved far from its real position there would be no sport in doing so (see the trivia section). Of course there is the possibility that "Utah" was on purpose and Montana by mistake. With 47 of 49 ending up rotated as expected on the map and only two exactly upside down, there can be no doubt that it was on purpose that the names in general have been written according to the states rotation. Note that for instance the state California has been rotated, but in a way so the text is written normally. But due to the direction of the state, it is normal to write the name tilted down along the state, which just coincidentally ends up being rotated normal in the position it has in the comic.

California has thus only been pushed down the length of the west border of the US (and thus rotated accordingly) so the top part still overlaps with the bottom part California, but also covers the bottom part of Arizona and New Mexico. Other states that likewise haven't been moved a lot include Maine which has only been rolled left (i.e. turned upside down) to just outside its normal position. Colorado has been moved up a state to where Wyoming usually is, and Wyoming has then just been shifted right, still covering part of its original position. But both have been turned 90 degrees, whichever way would be impossible to say for these rectangular states, but the text, if you dare believe in that, seems to indicate they have been turned counter clockwise. Wisconsin has only been shifted down below its usual position but then turned upside down.

The title text mentions how it would be unfair to use a blank version of this shuffled-up map as a quiz for knowledge of U.S. geography (the link is to such a map created by a user of this site); most people recognize states primarily by their relative locations, not their shape (and especially not their shape after being rotated). It also suggests a corresponding mean trick to play if you include Alaska and Hawaii, which are not present in the comic itself, namely to interchange the volcanic island of Hawaii (consisting of 8 main islands and hundreds of smaller ones) with those of the Aleutian Islands, also a chain of volcanic islands (14 large and 55 small) that partly belongs to the US and partly to Russia. The island extends from the Alaska Peninsula. It would thus be possible to even make it difficult to correctly name these last two states, even though it would be obvious to begin with that it must be the two not belonging to the mainland.


  • This table lists all states in the order of the transcript. But it can be sorted alphabetically.
  • Its purpose is twofold:
    • To list the rotation of the state compared to the real orientation of the state in the real world map
    • To list which state/states the states, in this comics map, have been moved over/inside.
    • Finally it a note can be made for interesting swaps.
State Rotation Moved to Note
Ohio Upside down Washington
Georgia Upside down Oregon
Michigan (lower part) (as Michigan) Upside down Northern California Michigan is the only state split in two, as it is also split in two peninsulas in real life. In real life these two parts lie very close on the shores of the Great Lakes, and not as here, with one on each coast of the US. But at least they still both lie on a shore.
Maryland (as MD) Upside down Central California (Southern Bay Area)
California Rotated counter clockwise Southern California, Southern Arizona, Southern New Mexico
Kansas Upside down Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, Western Montana
Pennsylvania Rotated clockwise Eastern Oregon, Idaho
Oklahoma Rotated clockwise Idaho, Montana
New Mexico None Nevada, Northern California
Nebraska Upside down Northern New Mexico, Northern Arizona
South Dakota None Montana
Colorado Rotated clockwise Western Wyoming
Wyoming Rotated counter clockwise Eastern Wyoming Stays mostly in place.
Utah Upside down Utah, Northern Arizona The text has been written upside down on the state, so in a correct map using this state the text would be upside down. Only other state this has happened with is Montana. Stays mostly in place.
Alabama None Western Colorado
Massachusetts (as MA) Rotated counter clockwise Central New Mexico
Virginia Rotated counter clockwise Western New Mexico
Arizona Rotated counter clockwise North Dakota
Washington Rotated counter clockwise Western Iowa, Eastern South Dakota, Eastern Nebraska
Montana Rotated counter clockwise Colorado, New Mexico and Texas The text has been written upside down on the state, so in a correct map using this state the text would be upside down. Only other state this has happened with is Utah.
New York None Westernmost tip of Texas Missing Long Island.
Minnesota Upside down Minnesota Stays mostly in place.

Horribly deformed, especially on the eastern border.

Texas Upside down Missouri, Arkansas, Western Kansas, Iowa, Southern Illinois
Connecticut (as CT) Rotated clockwise Texas and New Mexico border
Mississippi (as Missi-ssippi) Rotated clockwise Texas and Oklahoma border
Nevada None South Western Texas
Idaho Rotated clockwise Eastern Texas, Southern Louisiana
South Carolina Rotated counter clockwise Southernmost Texas
Missouri Upside down Eastern Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin, Michigan's upper peninsula, Lake Superior
Wisconsin Upside down Illinois Very deformed, loses its Western indentation
Kentucky Rotated clockwise Western Wisconsin, Western Illinois
North Dakota Rotated clockwise Mississippi
Florida Rotated counter clockwise Southern Michigan, Northern Ohio
North Carolina Rotated clockwise Southern Michigan, Eastern Indiana Missing Outer Banks.
Indiana None Alabama
Rhode Island (as RI ) Unclear rotation, perhaps counter clockwise Louisiana (New Orleans area)
Oregon Rotated clockwise Ohio, West Virginia
Iowa None Western North Carolina, South Carolina
Tennessee Upside down Northern Florida (Panhandle), Southern Alabama, Southern Georgia
Illinois None Florida
Maine Upside down Northern New York, Vermont
New Hampshire (as NH) None Western Pennsylvania
Michigan (upper part) (as MI (upper)) Rotated 45 degree counter clockwise Pennsylvania and New York Michigan is the only state split in two, as it is also split in two peninsulas in real life. In real life these two parts lie very close on the shores of the Great Lakes, and not as here, with one at each coast of the US. But at least they still both lie on a shore.
Arkansas None Eastern Maryland, Eastern Virginia
New Jersey (as NJ) None Eastern South Carolina
Louisiana Rotated counter clockwise Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine
West Virginia Rotated 45 degree clockwise Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts
Delaware (as DE) Rotated counter clockwise New York (Long Island)
Vermont (as VT) Upside down Either New Jersey or Delaware (unclear)


[A white map with an outline that closely resembles that of the mainland of the United States of America with gray all around the black border. But on closer inspection most of the states do not look right. The 48 mainland states are all there, however, with their name or abbreviations written on them as a label in gray text. But they have all been shuffled around and then reassembled as a jigsaw puzzle in the same shape as USA. The name labels for most of the states have been rotated, often to follow the new rotation of the state in the map. So some are written upside down or have been rotated 90 degrees clockwise or counter clockwise or even somewhere in between. One state, Michigan, has even been split up in two so there are 49 instead of 48 labels. For the states that have been named only with state abbreviations the full name is written in brackets behind the transcript of the abbreviation. Here below all the states are listed approximately in columns going from the top left and down and then moving right to the next column across the map. Any rotation of the text from normal is noted in brackets behind the name.]
Ohio [Upside down]
Georgia [Upside down]
Michigan [Upside down – but only bottom part]
MD [Upside down - Maryland]
California [Text not rotated, but state is rotated counter-clockwise]
Kansas [Upside down]
Pennsylvania [Rotated clockwise]
Oklahoma [Rotated clockwise]
New Mexico
Nebraska [Upside down]
South Dakota
Colorado [Rotated counter clockwise]
Wyoming [Rotated counter clockwise]
Utah [Text normal, but state is upside down, i.e. the text is upside down in the state]
MA [Rotated counter clockwise – Massachusetts]
Virginia [Rotated counter clockwise]
Arizona [Rotated counter clockwise]
Washington [Rotated counter clockwise]
Montana [Rotated clockwise - but the state is rotated counter clockwise, i.e. the text is upside down in the state]
New York
Minnesota [Upside down]
Texas [Upside down]
CT [Rotated clockwise –Connecticut]
ssippi [Rotated clockwise - text split with hyphen]
Idaho [Rotated clockwise]
South Carolina [Rotated counter clockwise, by more than 90 degrees, but the state is rotated exactly 90 degrees]
Missouri [Upside down]
Wisconsin [Upside down]
Kentucky [Rotated clockwise]
North Dakota [Rotated clockwise]
Florida [Rotated counter clockwise, by more than 90 degrees, but the state is rotated exactly 90 degrees]
North Carolina [Rotated clockwise]
RI [Label below in the ocean –Rhode Island]
Oregon [Rotated clockwise]
Tennessee [Upside down]
Maine [Upside down]
NH [New Hampshire]
MI (upper) [Rotated 45 degree counter clockwise – Michigan but only upper part]
NJ [New Jersey]
Louisiana [Rotated 45 degree counter clockwise - but the state is rotated exactly 90 degrees]
West Virginia [Rotated 45 degree clockwise]
DE [Rotated counter clockwise – label to the right in the ocean – Delaware]
VT [Upside down –Vermont]


  • Here the pieces have been shifted around:


  • And this opposite map shows to what extend the states fit in Randall's layout when using the real borders.
  • Using two A3 printouts of both the real map from Wikipedia and this comic, is approximately the same scale it was possible to reassemble US putting the states in their correct place.
    • The result displayed surprisingly accurate drawings of the states, although it is clear that on the borders between states that are not drawn by a ruler, they cannot be correct for both states in all cases.
    • From this map it becomes clear that not only Utah but also Montana has the text written upside down according to the correct position of the state.

1653 United States Map 49 piece jigsaw solved.jpg

  • This comic may be an input to the way the voting districts in the US are so random that you can not guess where your vote will count.
  • This raises an interesting math problem: How many colors (see the four color theorem) are needed to color the normal US map and the xkcd map so that the states under the same name should be in the same color (e. g. the two Washingtons should be in the same color. The four Michigans should also be in the same color. However, the North Dakota and South Dakota are considered different.) while different states that share borders on either map should be in different colors? (Detail needed)

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


But what prompted this map? Has there been a real life event that influenced Randall to create this? 07:32, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

Yes, this is about voting districts. They are so random you can not guess where your vote will count: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90RajY2nrgk

08:10, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

Citation needed. Jkshapiro (talk) 03:22, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
Definintely a case of [Citation needed]. -Pennpenn 03:58, 10 March 2016 (UTC)
Maybe but still realistic that it could have something to do with the timing. Added it to the trivia section --Kynde (talk) 22:20, 12 March 2016 (UTC)

(Finally, someone made the page so I can post this. :| ) I removed the names from Randall's map! Here's a blank version! Muahahaha! Quoice (talk) 07:39, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

Cool. Could you be so mean as to make a version including the shapes of Alaska and Hawaii. You could use the ones from Randall's map of United shapes as templates. That would be fantastic! --Kynde (talk) 09:03, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

Maybe add a table with every state cut out; and add a correct map with the cut out pieces in the right place? sirKitKat (talk) 09:05, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

That would just be a normal map... The piece could go over a real map in the wrong place to show it. Or rather the entire map should be overlaid on a real map... --Kynde (talk) 09:22, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
This sounds like a great idea to me! Case of "A picture is worth a thousand words". Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 11:39, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

First thing that comes to mind when I look at the map is seeing New York being against the Mexico border. I wonder how New Yorkers would deal with the Mexicans coming across. -- 14:43, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

This proves it: continental drift is real, and much faster than we thought. 15:18, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

1653-rearranged.png -- Frankie (talk) 15:31, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

AZ <-> NM 16:38, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
RI should be rotated Azsr (talk) 17:31, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
D'oh! Fixed AZ & NM (although server is still caching the original). Leaving RI as is due to caption arrangement. -- Frankie (talk) 18:00, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
Great map. Have linked from the explanation at the top. Also made my own real life jigsaw which I put in the trivia.

There's nothing in the article right now that indicates the shapes of the states have been altered slightly so that they fit together seamlessly in this arrangement. I think that's an important point. 15:53, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

I think that's obvious 16:18, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
I mentioned it in the trivia. Maybe it should go up also? But it is surprisingly close to being correct within the reasonable limits of the resolution --Kynde (talk) 19:44, 9 March 2016 (UTC)
+1, fitting Cape Cod into Mobile Bay is particularly stellar. Miamiclay (talk) 04:26, 11 March 2016 (UTC)

What happened to Long Island (part of NY)? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The article indicates Maine has only been moved, but it's also been rotated 180 degrees. (Upside down) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I will correct my mistake then ;-) --Kynde (talk) 19:44, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

So glad I'm not in Illinois any more... I guess I'm in Texas now. 18:04, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

* Do not use for navigation. Alexbuzzbee (talk) 23:39, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

Reminds me of this MIT Mystery Hunt puzzle from 2013 where you rebuild the US states into a map of Europe: http://web.mit.edu/puzzle/www/2013/coinheist.com/indiana/watch_your_back/answer/answer2/solution.png -- 02:47, 10 March 2016 (UTC)

"Orientation none" sounds strange to me, like saying "no temperature" when it is 0 degrees. Isn't "normal" or "unchanged" better? Jkrstrt (talk) 16:25, 10 March 2016 (UTC)

... or change the title of the column to be "Rotation" -- to which "None" is valid 21:54, 10 March 2016 (UTC)

Could someone with more experience than me fix the picture so it's not ginormous? I tried last night and the picture was replaced with the generic "picture failed to load" graphic, same as it looks here: http://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/File:1653_United_States_Map_49_piece_jigsaw_solved.jpg NotLock (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I have tried to make a smaller version of it. It can take a while before it uploads so I'm not sure if it has a descend size now? --Kynde (talk) 22:20, 12 March 2016 (UTC)

Would Washington, D.C. move with Virginia, or would it remain physically anchored in its current (real) location? 04:47, 11 March 2016 (UTC)

It could be placed on any state borders, due to it's small size compared to any state, so it makes no sense to ask the question I would say. Anyway it lies insicde Maryland on the border of Virginia so could as well move with Maryland if it was state bound... ;-) --Kynde (talk) 22:20, 12 March 2016 (UTC)

Has anyone sent this to Al Franken? 22:04, 11 March 2016 (UTC) I like this map more than the normal one