The Sexist Detective?

P.S. For anyone who may have difficulty reading upside down, here is the “solution” text flipped up:

Am I missing something, or did he just rule out suspect #1 because women aren’t strong enough to murder? Not sure if this is a CIDU (because I’ve overlooked something) or just a gripe.

I don’t think I’m missing something when I complain that the Inspector rules out suspect #3, just because suspect #3 isn’t eating chicken at the very moment he’s being questioned. How does that make sense? Suspect #2 isn’t eating chicken when he’s questioned either.


  1. It’s been less than an hour since the murder. It’s very unlikely suspect#3 could have returned home, eaten the chicken, cleaned up AND fixed and ate a steak.
    But yeah. When I read S#1 was ruled out by her gender, I went back to see if I had missed a clue. Nope.

  2. I think the clue eliminating the woman is in the description of the fight as “fierce and bloody”.

  3. There’s no sense in this detective story.

    Yes, he eliminate the woman because she’s a woman, although he stated that the reason is that vegetarians are too weak.

    We have the standard problem of the witness. How does she know that one of the heirs visited without knowing which? And why isn’t she a suspect?

    The murderer stole a chicken that wasn’t done cooking yet. Think about how you’d take a hot chicken from an oven and take it in your car, sanitarily. It wouldn’t be easy.

    And none of the suspects seem to have any aftereffects from “a fierce and bloody fight”.

  4. There’s also a typo in the 2nd panel. It should be “murderER.”

    I’ve never seen this comic, but it looks like a total mess.

  5. Suspect #1 is lying. Celery is so low in calories that you can’t survive eating it 24/7. You’d starve.

    Suspect #3 is lying. He claims to have eaten steak, but his glass contains white wine. Everybody knows that you drink red wine with steak. The white wine proves he dined on chicken. He took a boneless piece of breast, and gave the drumsticks to his faux-vegetarian accomplice.

    That’ll be 25 cents, please.

  6. Indeed, I recall a somewhat fun (but perhaps phony) related calculation that if you compare the caloric intake of eating celery with the energy expenditure from the work of chewing it, there is a net negative caloric input for eating celery.

  7. Ignatzz’s correction of the typo is of course correct.

    I wonder if we might attribute the spelling used as influence of the cartoonist’s native language.

  8. I confess that I (and my kids) read Slylock Fox just to see how dumb their mysteries can be. Their big fallacy is similar to the one in this strip, that is, “if you catch a person in a lie about the crime, that means they committed it.” Which no cop would rely because witnesses lie to them ALL the time about EVERYTHING. But this is dumb way beyond Slylock’s worst day.

  9. Mitch4: I’ve seen that calculation. Pretty sure it confuses calories and kcals. Otherwise I’d be a lot skinnier.

  10. BTW thank you for providing the re-aligned answer panel. Those used to be easier, when we got the comics on paper.

  11. Downpuppy: It’s at GoComics.

    padarig: I’ve been reading Encyclopedia Brown with my kids, which relies on the same fallacy.

    The other weird thing about Encyclopedia Brown is that sometimes the thief and victim had a face-to-face interaction, and the thief is flat-out contradicting the victim. e.g. Charles says Bugs Meany took the cookies from Charles’ hands and won’t give them back, but Bugs says that never happened, he was busy whale watching at Lake Michigan. Then when Bugs is caught in a lie, he just gives the cookies back instead of shrugging, or making up a new lie, even if there are no authority figures around.

  12. I agree with Pete when he says, “Suspect #1 is lying. Celery is so low in calories that you can’t survive eating it 24/7. You’d starve.”

  13. I do like how the detective’s assistant never says anything and, in fact, never changes his expression at all. I wonder if he’s just a manikin the detective drags around so he can talk out loud.

  14. “The murderer stole a chicken that wasn’t done cooking yet. Think about how you’d take a hot chicken from an oven and take it in your car, sanitarily. It wouldn’t be easy.”

    This is bafflingly nonsensical. Why the hell would a murderer steal a chicken? I guess just because they are the low of the low. I was expecting some Sherlock Holmes twist like the Three Napoleans or the Red-Haired League. But, no, they take it as a given the murderer stole the chicken to eat it and to eat it thenand there. And and since the steak eater didn’t have bones on his plate he couldn’t have hidden the bones in the kitchen (which supposedly the second guy did do and why he didn’t let the cops in??? and why isn’t the woman’s alibi that she doesn’t have bones either). This is incoherent.

  15. That’s very sexist. Or is it just lazy? I wonder if this was a cut a paste job, with the solution being written for another strip and imperfectly edited for this one? In any case, this clown’s eagerness to pin this on anyone he can and call it a day just proves you shouldn’t talk to cops.

  16. Even taking into account the obvious, e.g., a daily (weekly?) strip with a “mystery,” much less one confined to a few panels; to call the elimination of the vegetarian because she is a woman nonsensical seems charitable.

    But I have another gripe. Mr. Winston was visited by WHOM, not by WHO.

    Now the gripes are complete.

  17. CloonBounty: I noticed that too, but figured it was small beer compared to the rest! Glad to see I’m not the only one.

  18. I mistyped. I meant to imply that even if we’re being CHARITABLE to the author because the concept is too darn hard for any writer, this is still beyond lame.

    For example, there are a lot of holes that could be filled by a few more panels, e.g., the Maid(?) doesn’t explain how she knows it was an heir. Fine. We’ll assume that’s a reasonable conceit. Similarly, a few extra panels could have provided a reasonable alibi for any one of the suspects.

    But why did they skip “proving” the gender of the murderer with some evidence? In 2021 gender norms are looked upon suspiciously, but I’d be willing to forgive it in the service of brevity.

  19. bpostow: well, he certainly wouldn’t let a womanikin drive–if they can’t be murder(er)s, surely they can’t drive, either!

  20. I can’t tell if this is supposed to be a cartoon satirizing quick-mysteries or not.

    Either way, the thought-process is supposed to go like this:

    Someone committed a murder!
    The murderer stole a chicken!
    There are three suspects.
    The murderer will be the one suspect that is in the middle of eating a chicken dinner.

    So all you have to do is determine which suspect is currently having dinner with chicken. Easy-peazy!

    So is the murderer suspect #1? No, because she’s having celery. Celery isn’t chicken, so you know she’s innocent.

    So is the murderer suspect #2? He says he hates chicken, so probably not. But he could be lying, so we can’t rule him out completely. In addition, we can’t actually see what kind of meal he’s in the middle of eating, as he didn’t invite the inspectors to come in. It’s probably a seafood meal, but we don’t know that for certain.

    So is the murderer suspect #3? Finally, we see some guy eating meat, so that’s our smoking gun! Let’s arrest him!

    But wait! The presence of meat doesn’t necessarily mean the presence of chicken. In fact, the more observant readers will have noticed that suspect #3 can’t possibly be eating chicken, as indicated by the lack of chicken bones.

    So if suspect #3 is cleared, then who could have committed the murder? Who? Who?

    I think you know where I’m going with all this. It’s not that the lady is innocent because she’s not capable of killing (despite the “couldn’t kill a fly” remark). It’s because she isn’t currently eating a chicken dinner.

    As if that’s how police catch killers in real life. (Which is why I’m wondering if this cartoon is supposed to be a parody cartoon after all.)

  21. I saw something years ago where someone wrote into a column regarding burning thousands of calories by drinking ice water. Because the water goes in near freezing and comes out at body temperature.

    First, this was another confusion with calories and Kilocalories. My calculations are that from a pure physics standpoint you’d burn about 35 Kcals per liter. However, I doubt you even get that. Under most conditions, the human body runs at a heat surplus just from basal metabolism, and needs to shed heat to maintain base temp. You could see this by bundling up in winter clothes and sitting around at normal room temps. You’d quickly overheat.

    I suspect that the ice water would just neutralize some of the waste heat unless you were in cold conditions.

  22. Yeah this is really… I think there’s a rule of not being critical of a strip, so… nah I’ll make an exception… terrible.

    I don’t think this has been mentioned, but the detective used the method of elimination? Yes I know we’re supposed to assume that it’s guaranteed that the killer is a heir, but that’s a baffling way of fingering the killer.

  23. With Encyclopedia Brown, i always wondered why Bugs answers any questions. Just tell the kid to get lost.

    There was one where I really objected to the mystery and solution. It had to do with a contest for drinking some foul concoction. Encyclopedia had a friend with strong jaws, including popping caps of soda bottles (bad for your teeth) who was favored in the contest. They witness another kid putting ice in his mouth (it was a hot day). During the contest, the kid calmly chugs down the concoction. Encyclopedia says the kid cheated he and would have a word with the judges. The explanation was by freezing his mouth he couldn’t taste anything.

    I didn’t buy most of that. I don’t think sucking on ice would have much affect on consuming a bad-tasting liquid, and even if it did there was probably nothing in the rules about ice.

  24. In fact, the dead guy stole the chicken and the landlady killed him in a fit of rage. She then fingered “one of his heirs” to shift blame.

  25. Maybe it’s a political comment about how lazy and stupid cops are and the capriciousness of whom they choose to arrest.

    Mark M: We’re not supposed to just complain that a particular comic strip (as a whole) or writer is just no good at all because then it’s just a matter of preference. But saying this particular strip doesn’t make sense and is poorly thought out is legit.

  26. It was a bloody fight, and Suspect 2 had the sense to wear a red shirt making it difficult to see the bloodstains all over it.

  27. “I didn’t buy most of that. I don’t think sucking on ice would have much affect on consuming a bad-tasting liquid, and even if it did there was probably nothing in the rules about ice.”

    I remember that one. I figured you were supposed to do anything you could to help you and sucking on ice would be a fair strategy.

    Similarly there was a story about an egg spinning contest and the “cheater” used a hard boiled egg. He made no secret of it. He spun it and it fell of a counter and the counter man said he’d get a broom to clean it so… and any judge seeing an egg spinning for 30 seconds would know it is hard boiled, so I just assumed hard-boiled was within the rules.

  28. The author of Encyclopedia Brown had a real disdain for modern art, which came up in a number of mysteries. In one story a kid tied paint brushes to his gerbils’ tails to make art to enter into an contest. He was disqualified when someone “snitched” on him, and then he hired Encyclopedia Brown to figure out who was the snitch. Which for me just brought up the question of (1) why would you be disqualified for using animals in your art and (2) if it was in fact
    against the rules, why is Encyclopedia helping this cheater?

  29. Winter Wallaby wrote: “Suspect #1 never says she only eats celery. She says she’s a vegetarian.”

    Okay, you got me there.

    But she does ask the inspectors if they want a bite of her delicious celery. She may eat more than celery, but calling celery “delicious” is more than just an exaggeration.

  30. I would love it if the solution to the mystery was “It’s suspect #1. You know she’s a liar because no one thinks celery is delicious.”

  31. I too remember that Encyclopedia Brown story, and I believe the bit about cold deadening your taste buds — it seems to do so for me, anyway. …Which brings me to a story about Brazil, again. When I was there, Guinness was trying to make inroads into the Brazilian market, but at the time, Guinness had this thing about the “proper” temperature for drinking their stout, which was much closer to the traditional English warm beer end of the scale, and Brazilians to a man all know that beer is to be drunk “stupidly” cold (literal translation). (I always figured the stupidly cold grew out of being a hot country, with the advantage dawning that the colder brew, the less you have to taste whatever inferior swill they had to drink.) I figured this would be the fine time for Guinness to use snob appeal to try and change the prevailing norm, by running a commercial of a guy serving pee in a beer glass stupidly cold, and having no one be able to tell, and thus differentiate Guinness, because it actually tastes good (*) and doesn’t have to be stupidly cold. Instead, Guinness made an exception and allowed their stout to be served improperly cold — I guess they figure more sales, ka-ching!, and who cares what these philistines do anyway?

    My uncle-in-law got into wine a few years later, only he insisted on drinking his red wine stupidly cold, which was one of those epitome of everything on all sides moments for me: you’ve distilled the wine snobbery to its pure essence, because drunk ice cold, there is no chance for you to even possibly taste all the essence of toast and whatever wine snobs claim makes expensive wine superior — he might as well have been drinking xi-xi… (Eric Idle talks about a lost Monty Python sketch that never got made, because it was too much even for them — wine snob describing in great detail what he tastes in this superior vintage, only for the repeated punchline of, “uh, no, it’s wee-wee”…)

    (* I don’t actually like Guinness, which was a problem when I was in Ireland and wanted to experience the local flavor; two things emerged: 1) cider is universally available and drinking it instead is almost OK, and somehow Bulmers (Magners anywhere else in the world) tastes better in Ireland in a pub than it does from a bottle in the States; cider is seen as a drink for girls, but if your are confident enough in your manhood, drink it and to hell with ’em! 2) a bar tender gave us this tip, and it is wonderful: ask for a shot of casis (black currant) syrup in your Guinness — it’s a standard practice (they won’t look at you like you have two heads if you ask for it), and while still considered girly and not real man, no one can tell if they don’t hear your order, and it makes the bitter stout quite tolerable.)

    With regards to the Encyclopedia Brown story, the reason it stuck with me all these years is because I thought it was unjust, in that if the one kid can’t use ice — which was actually very clever — then the kid with the huge mandibles also should not be allowed to use his unfair advantage of locking his jaw to hide any grimace he might make, which is what Encyclopedia coaches him to do! We want the one who can bear the bitter drink the most stoically, not the one who has an unfair advantage to help him hide his reaction!

  32. Being the anti-social loner I was the hardest thing I had with Encyclopedia Brown was the assumptions of these contests and societal rules. There was a frequent scammer trying to get kids to invest their lunch money in schemes (such as building a scale model of the solar system; see here is the marble size model of the earth) in that I didn’t really get the idea of investing money– where are the kids going to get their money back; why is this adult scamming children— don’t adults have more money; and he scams the kids … where’s he going to go when there parents come after him threatening to pound him if he doesn’t give the money back– was his plan to leave town and never come back– then why does he always come back.

    And theres the prize winning photo of a women falling from a roof across a window while a girl obliviously lights candles inside. (Its a fake). Why is a gruesome photo more award winning than a wholesome picture. This wasn’t a contest of news-worthy photos; it was an art contest. And how was it faked? Doesn’t a faked photo show talent and deserve to win because it is faked. It takes talent to fake a photo whereas to take a photo of a falling lady takes incredible luck. The argument seemed everyone thought it was amazing luck and hard to believe and that was worthy of a photography prize whereas I just assumed maybe… skill, and ability, and talent and creativity might maybe be of more value than luck.

    And the kid in the magician’s hat and short sleeves. So … he’s not really a magician because magicians always have long sleeves to hid things in (But then … why do they always pull up their sleeves and make a point of saying “Nothing up my sleeves”) and he’s just dressing as one to hide in the crowd as he makes his getaway. But… isn’t any teacher of the talent show going to notice “hey, he never signed up to be a magician in the act” and when the talent show begins isn’t anyone going to notice he can do any tricks. And where did he get the magician outfit anyway. Was some other kid signed up as a magician– why didnt he notice the kid stole his hat.

    And so on….

  33. It couldn’t have been #1 because she was the only woman and had it been she/her, the woman in panel one would have definitely know who had entered—the (only) woman

  34. If anyone is lying it’s the maid. She was quick enough to notice that the chicken she was cooking was stolen, but not who was visiting. What kind of a maid is she? For all we know, she never cooked chicken, to begin with. Wouldn’t the room smell of chicken if it was being cooked? She did the murder and used the heirs as red herrings to get away with it.

  35. “Why does Heir#2 have “1071” crudely written on his shirt?”

    I believe it is the 1071st strip.

    I don’t think it’s on his shirt, it’s appearing on top of the art, like a subtitle.

    There is often a number appearing on the strip. But GoComics are showing them out of sequence. The next one shown by GoComics has the number 1073, and the most recent one has the number 555.

  36. Nitpicking Encyclopedia Brown is really tempting, but kinda like shooting sitting birds. It’s probably just as well that I don’t remember any of them well enough to join in.

  37. Yeah, and to be fair, it was an entertaining enough lesson in deductive and inductive reasoning, plus some science and math mixed in; not exactly the ultimate detective novel or anything. So I generally forgive the plot holes in EB.

    And probably-40-plus-years after the probably-only-time I read it, there’s STILL a lesson in physics I learned form EB that comes up a lot; which is that if a kid is sitting in the bed of a pickup and the truck stops, he’ll be thrust forward toward the cab, not backward onto the street.

    Even today, when there’s an abrupt stop of some sort, I think back to that story.

  38. CloonBounty: You mean the idea of the kid faking the kidnapping because of a pending divorce? And them magically deciding to stay together? Yeah, probably not a great message for kids.

    In brighter news, I saw the hole as soon as I read it. Plus, imagine trying to launder 3M bills!

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