1105: License Plate

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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 their 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" or "one, letter I, one, dash, letter I, letter I, letter I and one". He believes the ambiguity between the letter I and the 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, but often when a crime is committed witnesses only has a short time to look at the plate, and will then be confused.

In principle his idea did work, because when the police end up interviewing a witness of a crime scene in the end of the comic, he can only say that "The thief's license plate was all "1"s or something". What Cueball does not count on is that there are no other license plates made up entirely of the letter I and the digit 1. Thus, when witnesses report a vehicle with a license plate of either/or I's and 1's, the police know exactly who the perpetrator is.

Given the fact that the police still haven't caught him even though they have his address written on a Post-it note in their car, it seems like they had already thought of the same idea, and when Cueball registered such a license plate they put up the address in the police cars, as they expected him to begin committing crimes. He may already have committed more than one, but they would soon stop him before it turned into a crime spree. (An alternative interpretation is that his crime spree has so far consisted of minor offenses, so they haven't arrested him, just issued him warnings or citations -- although one would expect him to stop once it became obvious they were onto him.)

Some individuals in New Hampshire and Kansas have obtained this license plate.

The title text appears to be a conversation between Cueball and the police the next day when they show up at his address. It turns out that the police suspect Cueball of six bank robberies. Cueball responds that "all" he did was vandalize the library. But the police disregard this as a nice try to avoid being arrested because witnesses saw a license plate with all 1's and I's was used. Cueball does not understand this because he was with his car the entire time since he got the license plate. And just as he says this, he has an epiphany and states wait. OK, wow that was clever of her. It is thus clear that he suspects that Megan of having made a false license plate also with only a combination of I's and 1's. And then she has robbed six banks knowing that the police would be sure to suspect Cueball, who was so foolish to show his criminal intent by registering such a plate in the first place.

Knowing that the police will assume the car is his, she has thus framed him. Hopefully for Cueball, he can prove he was not involved in the robberies, but if the police assumed that he was the one that committed the crimes, they may not have taken so much care in collecting evidence the first day of the crimes. This will have given Megan time to run away with all the money, as no one was looking for her. So she may well have left the country with no one looking for a woman. This will make it more difficult for Cueball to avoid the blame.

It is clear that Megan would not be so stupid as to register another plate, because then they would know that there could be more than one criminal. Also she would not have had time to get it, if the crime spree began soon after Cueball showed the plate to her. But if the fake plate makes people tell about the 1s and Is then the police would not ask further and discover that the plate might have looked fake.

Note the yellow police line seems to say Police strip do not cross, where Police line do not cross seems to be the only sentence used normally (unless it is crime scene do not cross, but that also does not fit). (Of course, this could be a pun about the fact that this occurrence is a comic strip.)


[Cueball is walking in from the right holding a license plate up with both hands for an off-panel Megan to see. It is possible to see the plate, but here it looks like all I's (or 1's).]
Cueball: Check out my personalized license plate!
Megan (off-panel): "1I1-III1"?
Cueball: It's perfect!
[In this frame-less panel Megan is sitting in an office chair holding and looking at the plate while Cueball stand next to her rubbing his hands together in front of him.]
Cueball: No one will be able to correctly record my plate number!
Cueball: I can commit any crime I want!
Megan: Sounds foolproof.
[A man with hair only around his neg and glasses holds out a hand towards a bald male police officer with a black peaked cap with white emblem on the front. The police man interviews their witness holding a notepad and a pen. Another likewise caped female officer is Ponytail who walks to the left arm pointing left. There is a line of yellow police tape behind them with text partially obscured by the characters. At the top left of the panel there is a small frame with a caption:]
Witness: The thief's license plate was all "1"s or something.
Police officer: Oh. That guy.
Ponytail: His address is on a post-it in the squad car.
Yellow strip (text not visible in brackets): Poli[ce strip] do not cross [poli]ce stri[p do not] cross.

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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)

This prohibition happens in my place, and it also notes that each license plate must contain at least one number as some local people were not familiar with English letters. -- -- ColorfulGalaxy (talk) 17:12, 12 January 2023 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

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? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Interesting fact: confusing similar letters/numbers would not be possible in many countries in Europe, Africa and Asia, because they use the german "FE-Schrift"-Font for license plates. This font is explicitly designed to avoid similarities between different letters and numbers: Wikipedia: FE-Schrift 15:36, 6 January 2023 (UTC)