1105: License Plate

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 02:43, 17 July 2016 by (talk) (missing period)
Jump to: navigation, search
License Plate
The next day: 'What? Six bank robberies!? But I just vandalized the library!' 'Nice try. They saw your plate with all the 1's and I's.' 'That's impossible! I've been with my car the whole ti-- ... wait. Ok, wow, that was clever of her.'
Title text: The next day: 'What? Six bank robberies!? But I just vandalized the library!' 'Nice try. They saw your plate with all the 1's and I's.' 'That's impossible! I've been with my car the whole ti-- ... wait. Ok, wow, that was clever of her.'


Cueball has obtained a new license plate. The license plate number one receives is often the next in sequence, available at the time and place of registration. However, in many localities, for an additional fee one can select his or her own "personalized" license plate number (called a vanity plate), subject to certain criteria, and availability.

In this comic, Cueball has elected to purchase the personalized license plate number "1I1-III1". He believes the ambiguity between the letter I and digit 1 on the plate will make it very difficult for anyone to correctly identify his vehicle if he commits a crime. Some localities have more distinct "1" and "I" characters in their license plate font than others.

What Cueball does not count on is that there are few, if any, other people who have chosen license numbers made up entirely of the letter I and digit 1. Thus, when witnesses report a vehicle with a license plate of I's and 1's, the police know exactly who the perpetrator is. Given either Cueball's apparent crime sprees or their realizing immediately upon the license plate's registration what Cueball's intent was, the police have written the address on a Post-it note (self-sticking adhesive notes commonly used for quick handy notetaking) in their car.

The title text appears to be a conversation between Cueball and the police as follows: That the police suspect Cueball of six bank robberies because a car with a license plate of all I's and 1's was used. Cueball responds that all he did was vandalize the library. Cueball does not understand because he was with his car the entire time of the robberies. As he says this, he has an epiphany that "that was clever of her". Although somewhat ambiguous, this appears to suggest that Megan, who Cueball told his plan to in the second panel, may have registered a different personalized license plate with a different combination of I's and 1's and has robbed six banks in an attempt to frame Cueball, knowing that the police will assume the car is his.

Someone in New Hampshire appears to have done this in real life.


[Cueball is holding a license plate up for an out-of-frame Megan to see.]
Cueball: Check out my personalized license plate!
Out-of-frame Megan: "1I1-III1"?
Cueball: It's perfect!
[Megan is sitting in a chair holding the plate.]
Cueball: No one will be able to correctly record my plate number!
I can commit any crime I want!
Megan: Sounds foolproof.
[Scene is two police officers (non-descript Cueball-type character holding a notepad, and Ponytail) interviewing a witness wearing glasses. There is a line of yellow police tape behind them.]
Witness: The thief's license plate was all "1"s or something.
Cop 1: Oh. That guy.
Ponytail cop: His address is on a Post-it in the squad car.

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


In New Jersey (USA), the laws allowing personalize license plates specifically disallows plates in the format of a standard plate.

Wouldn't this idea be more effective (theoretically) with 0's and O's (that is, zeroes and capital O's)? Erenan (talk) 15:58, 7 September 2012 (UTC)

Many localities disallow one or the other for specifically that reason. In my locality, the letter O is not allowed in *ANY* license plate, not even the randomly assigned ones, so AAN-999 would be followed by AAP-000, rather than the expected AAO-000. Although at a quick glance, a capital Q looks similar to a number 0. 23:37, 4 November 2014 (UTC)

Shouldn't this be comic 1111? Only 2 weeks to go. --Xkpd (talk) 19:32, 7 September 2012 (UTC)

The last line of title text should have been 'Clever girl'. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO5wryDdEI0 -- 19:34, 7 September 2012 (UTC)

Discussing this comic over chat with a friend... A: I thought he actually robbed the banks..and she pre-emptively ratted him out. Apparently, an alternative interpretation is that she committed the robbery. Which one of the two is it? B: She robbed the banks. A: Well, you can just fake any number plate. Why bother faking his unusual one specifically? Unless, she's a sadist of course... B: Just 'cause he leaked his plans to her A: lol #LessonsToBeLearnt #NeverTellWomenAnything B: Agreeeed!

I don't think she FAKED his plate, I think she bought another personalized plate with a different combination of 1's and I's which the police just assumed was his because of his already existing reputation as the guy committing crimes with the 1's and I's license plate. TheHYPO (talk) 14:10, 10 September 2012 (UTC)
I was of the impression that he actually committed the robberies, and that the "clever"-ness was in getting him to admit that he was with his car (instead of his car being stolen or borrowed.) -- 15:13, 29 September 2012 (UTC)
I thought he had only committed the one crime (vandalization) and the police tricked him into admitting it by accusing him of 5 other fake crimes. 19:58, 14 November 2012 (UTC)

Um, I'm pretty sure the license plate office specifically forbids use of certain characters BECAUSE of their ambiguity. Like, I and O are not allowed in PA because of their similarity to 1 and 0. So this comic lives in the realm of fiction where they haven't thought of that already. --Tustin2121 (talk) 16:35, 9 September 2012 (UTC)

Just after this ran, I saw a photo (on some internet "funny photo" site) of a car with an actual New Your state license plate made up of only Bs and 8s (e.g. "B88BB8B") for a similar effect.

I saw a BMW with license plate "I1IIIII" a day or two after this ran. 17:45, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

If they were ever brought to court in the US, assuming they were both driving the same type of car, they would be able to provide enought mutual reasonable doubt as to which one of them had done it. 03:37, 16 June 2013 (UTC)

I played a game called Everybody Edits, where the 5 and S were the same. nobody could perform the /kick command on me >:D ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Owning a car with a number plate is not considered a crime in Britain. I would have thought even if a non-sequitur is permissible in the US, it only applies to dark skinned people? I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 19:52, 20 January 2015 (UTC)

Is it just me, or are the lines in this comic really thick? 00:37, 21 January 2017 (UTC)

The explanation suggests that they flagged the plate when it was registered, and Megan in the title text used a false plate. Could it be that they didn't automatically flag the plate, but Megan warned the police about him, and thus no false plate was needed?