6 Cheesy Facts About Mouse Trap

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For nearly 50 years, kids and adults have been constructing elaborate scenarios in Mouse Trap, the board game that makes pest control a family affair. Using plastic pieces, players build a series of perils for the mouse-shaped game tokens, hoping to eventually ensnare rival mice in their trap. For more on the origins of the game, including why Rube Goldberg may have gotten stiffed, keep reading.

1. Mouse Trap was inspired by Rube Goldberg.

When someone mentions a “Rube Goldberg device,” they’re usually referring to a design that pays homage to cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who published a series of clever contraptions in daily newspapers as commentary on the increasingly—and needlessly—complex modern world. When toy design firm owner Marvin Glass wanted to create a three-dimensional board game inspired by Goldberg that could be built vertically, he turned to employees Gordon Barlow and Burt Meyer. The two conceived the Mouse Trap concept and had it ready for the 1963 Toy Fair.

2. Mouse Trap was rejected by Milton Bradley for being “junk.”

The 'Mouse Trap' board game is pictured
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A board game that dispensed with conventional play methods like rolling dice or board squares was a radical departure for the toy industry of the 1960s, and not everyone was on board. When Marvin Glass and Burt Meyer took the game to Milton Bradley to see if the popular board game company might be interested, they were surprised at the reaction. The president of Milton Bradley, James Shea Sr., thought it was an awful idea. “This is not a game, this is nothing,” he said. “A game, you play it on a board and you roll dice, but this, this is a lot of plastic junk. We can’t use this.” Parker Brothers also turned them down. But Glass had the last laugh. The game, released by Ideal, wound up selling 1.2 million copies in 1963 alone.

3. Rube Goldberg never saw a dime from Mouse Trap.

Despite its Goldberg-esque design, the cartoonist was never directly involved in Mouse Trap. His syndicate, King Features, asked Glass for a royalty on the game but Glass refused. Goldberg himself was 80 and about to retire, and apparently the prospect of a legal fight was unappealing. Instead, he licensed his name for a series of playsets produced by Multiple Products, Inc. that paid homage to his work. Glass, meanwhile, offered the Crazy Clock and Fish Bait games in quick succession, which were also knock-offs of Goldberg’s work. None of it was as popular as Mouse Trap.

4. Someone once built a life-size Mouse Trap.

Mouse Trap fan and San Francisco-based general contractor Mark Perez thought Mouse Trap did an excellent job of demonstrating various facets of physics, from the kinetic energy of the game’s spring and cable-powered hammer hitting a boot to the incline plane of the staircase. In 2005, he created a full-size model of the game’s various pieces, a set-up weighing 25 tons that he went on tour with to explain the science behind the design. At the Henry Ford Museum in 2012, the contraption finished its sequence by crushing a car. As of 2018, the attraction was still touring.

5. The UK version of Mouse Trap comes with a toilet.

Not many board games invite players to flush a toilet to advance, but the UK version of Mouse Trap is an exception. Among the playing pieces (baskets, a bathtub, fulcrums) is a plastic toilet that can be utilized to keep the momentum of the game rolling.

6. You might be able to use Mouse Trap to catch an actual mouse.

But only a very, very patient one. YouTuber Shawn Woods posted a video of his Mouse Trap display that works just like the classic version of the game, except it adds a conventional snap trap at the beginning and end of the course. When the design finishes its machinations, a trap door closes on the wayward rodent. Woods used his own mouse as the test subject, but not to worry—it’s humane and harmless.

5 Wild Facts About Mall Madness

Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The mall, home of fashion brands, bookstores, and anchor locations like Sears, was a must-visit location for Americans in the 1980s and 1990s—and especially for teenagers. Teens also played Mall Madness, a board game from Milton Bradley introduced in 1988 that tried to capture the excitement of soft pretzels and high-interest credit card shopping in one convenient tabletop game. Navigating a two-story shopping mall, the player who successfully spends all of their disposable income to acquire six items from the shopping list and return to the parking lot wins.

If you’re nostalgic for this simulated spending spree, you're in luck: Hasbro will be bringing Mall Madness back in fall 2020. Until then, check out some facts about the game’s origins.

1. Mall Madness was the subject of a little controversy.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Milton Bradley put a focus on the tween demographic. Their Dream Phone tasked young players with finding the boy of their dreams; Mall Madness, which began as an analog game but quickly added an electronic voice component, served to portray tweens as frenzied shoppers. As a result, the game drew some criticism upon release for its objective—to spend as much money as possible—and for ostensibly portraying the tweens playing as “bargain-crazy, credit-happy fashion plates,” according to Adweek. Milton Bradley public relations manager Mark Morris argued that the game taught players “how to judiciously spend their money.”

2. The original Mall Madness may not be the same one you remember.

The electronic version of Mall Madness remains the most well-known version of the game, but Milton Bradley introduced a miniature version in 1988 that was portable and took the form of an audio cassette. With the game board folded in the case, it looks like a music tape. Opened, the tri-fold board resembles the original without the three-dimensional plastic mall pieces. It was one of six games the company promoted in the cassette packaging that year.

3. Mall Madness was not the only shopping game on the market.

At the same time Mall Madness was gaining in popularity, consumers could choose from two other shopping-themed board games: Let’s Go Shopping from the Pressman Toy Corporation and Meet Me At the Mall from Tyco. Let’s Go Shopping tasks girls with completing a fashion outfit, while Meet Me At the Mall rewards the player who amasses the most items before the mall closes.

4. There was a Hannah Montana version of Mall Madness.

In the midst of Hannah Montana madness in 2008, Hasbro—which acquired Milton Bradley—released a Miley Cyrus-themed version of the game. Players control fictional Disney Channel singing sensation Hannah Montana as she shops for items. There was also A Littlest Pet Shop version of the game, with the tokens reimagined as animals.

5. Mall Madness is a collector’s item.

Because, for the moment, Hasbro no longer produces Mall Madness, a jolt of nostalgia will cost you a few dollars. The game, which originally sold for $30, can fetch $70 or more on eBay and other secondhand sites.

10 'Nuts' That Aren't Actually Nuts

None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
margouillatphotos/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Who doesn’t love a pedantic houseguest? Next time you’re at a dinner party and someone breaks out the mixed nuts, seize the moment and let everyone know that a lot of the tasty treats we call nuts don’t actually merit the title. Botanists define a “nut” as a dry, one-seeded fruit encased in a hardened ovary wall (called a pericarp). Genuine nuts are fused to their shells and won’t naturally break open upon reaching maturity. Hazelnuts fit the criteria. So do chestnuts. But these ever-popular snack foods sure don’t.

1. Peanuts

The star ingredient of America's favorite nut butter isn't actually a nut. Instead, peanuts are considered legumes, along with soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. Unlike nuts, most legumes come in self-opening pods—which may or may not grow underground, depending on the species. 

2. Almonds

A group of almonds in wood bowl atop a rustic table
These almonds formed inside a fleshy fruit.
onairjiw/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Almonds are seeds found within the fleshy, peach-like fruits of the Asian Prunus dulcis tree. They’ve earned a spot on our list because actual nuts don’t come wrapped up in softened fruit matter. So how do botanists classify almonds? As drupe seeds. Briefly stated, a drupe is a soft fruit with a hard inner shell. (Think peach pits.)

3. Cashews

Like almonds, cashews are drupe seeds pulled from soft fruit packages. The trail mix staples poke out of red, yellow, or green “cashew apples” that grow on South American trees. Cashew seeds are naturally protected by a toxin-coated outer shell that's roasted to neutralize the acid. In spite of this defense mechanism, the yummy snacks were soon embraced by Portuguese explorers and distributed across the globe.

4. Walnuts

A squirrel eating walnuts in a park
The walnuts this squirrel is noshing on are drupes, not nuts.
Serhii Ivashchuk/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Hey look, it’s another member of the drupe clan! Walnuts inhabit green fruit on temperate trees in the genus Juglans. Most of the seeds that end up on American dining room tables come from the English walnut tree, Juglans regia [PDF]. Even if you don’t eat the drupes, you can probably find a use for them: Walnut shells have been incorporated into everything from cosmetic products to kitty litter.

5. Pine nuts

About 20 pine tree species—including the Italian stone pine—produce big seeds that get harvested en masse. Those seeds are removed from cones in a meticulous process, which accounts for their high selling prices.

5. Brazil Nuts

You’ll encounter Brazil nuts all over the Amazon rainforest, in such countries as Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and (of course) Brazil. They come from a hardened 4-to-6-pound pod containing up to two dozen seeds that might become trees someday. The pods are so hefty, getting bonked on the head by a falling one is enough to stun or even kill you.  Surprisingly, Brazil Nuts can also be fairly radioactive thanks to the trees' roots, which grow deep within radium-rich soil.

7. Macadamia Nuts

Rows of trees at an Australian Macadamia orchard
An Australian macadamia orchard filled with the country's native drupe.
oxime/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Gympie, Queensland, has an odd claim to fame: Approximately 70 percent of all the macadamia nuts on Earth are descended from trees grown in the Australian town. Macadamias are an ecological staple in Queensland and New South Wales. But—stop us if this sounds familiar—their so-called “nuts” are drupes.

8. Pistachios

Not only are pistachios drupes, but they’ve got shells that automatically open with a literal popping noise once the contents reach a certain size. When all’s said and done, though, at least pistachios are Frank Drebin-approved.

9. Pecans

The Algonquian term for “nut that requires a stone to crack” gave us the English word pecan. Wild pecans can be gathered in Mexico and the United States—they’re true North American treasures. Name origin aside, they can’t accurately be called nuts. Botanists usually refer to them as drupes, but because of their tough shells, the label “drupaceous nuts” might be more appropriate. Either way, pecans aren’t true nuts. They make for great pies, though.

10. Coconuts

A monkey sticks out its tongue while eating a coconut
This cheeky monkey seems to be enjoying its delicious drupe.
Volga2012/iStock via Getty Images Plus

A drupe of unusual size, the coconut is a fibrous juggernaut that bears a single seed. The whitish fleshy interior can be immersed in hot water and then rung out through a cloth to produce coconut milk. Meanwhile, the outer shells are responsible for some of the most delightfully bizarre Guinness World Records categories, such as “most green coconuts smashed with the head in one minute.” (You can see other unusual Guinness World Record categories here.)

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