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Paper Key Retrieval Trick
I've spent this whole night looking for a door I can open by sliding a newspaper underneath and poking the key out of the other side of the keyhole so that it falls on the newspaper. Every computer game character gets to do that except ME. It isn't fair.
Larry Laffer, after finding an unlocked door in Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards Reloaded

A standard trick of the Locked Room Mystery, in which a key must be retrieved from the other side of a locked door. Fortunately, someone left the key in the old-fashioned lock, from which the key can be dislodged with a handy slender tool (icepick, wire, knitting needle), to be caught on a piece of paper slid under the ill-fitting door.

Modern locks are constructed to prevent this, and modern doors' thresholds seldom have sufficient space to do it. It's also possible for the key to bounce off the paper. Therefore, it's normally used only in period pieces, or stories set in older houses that haven't been renovated in ages.

Probably the best-known subtrope of the Lock and Key Puzzle, and a classic Stock Puzzle.

Examples:

Film
  • In Heroic Trio, two of the protagonists are locked in a storage closet in a hospital as an Ax-Crazy killer sneaks off the maternity ward to kill babies. They managed to hit the door hard enough to dislodge the key on the other side and slip a hand under the door to get it. This scene is an odd Twenty Minutes into the Future example.

Comics

Literature
  • In The Unadulterated Cat by Terry Pratchett, Sir Terry describes doing this to rescue next-door's gerbils from his cat, based on a vague memory of a "beat the burglar" piece in The Eagle, and being amazed when it actually worked.
    • Moist tries this in Making Money (he would, being a mostly reformed criminal) but it doesn't work.
  • Most Enid Blyton series include this at least once, especially The Secret Seven and The Famous Five.
  • Bod escapes from the back room of the antique shop this way in The Graveyard Book.

Live-Action Television
  • An expanded version is used in an episode of The Mentalist: Not only does Jane retrieve the key this way, but he pulls it back into the keyhole from outside the door using fishing line.
  • Happy Days: Richie, Potsie and Ralph are locked in the hall closet by a burglar robbing the Cunningham house, and use this to get out.
  • The title character of MacGyver has done this on several occasions.
  • Get Smart: Maxwell attempts this in "The Return of the Ancient Mariner", but because he's in a comedy series (and also incompetent) the key falls off and ends up on the floor outside.
  • Used perfectly straight in the classic Doctor Who epsiode "Image Of The Fendahl".

Theatre
  • The Odd Couple: Oscar does this when he's locked in the closet for some reason.

Video Games
  • Used with no modification in Zork II.
  • Played straight in Dark Fall The Journal.
  • Subverted in Scratches, in which the key lands on the paper but is too large to fit under the door. Micheal even lampshades the trope as that happens.
  • One of the early puzzles in Mystery Of Time And Space.
  • Used as the solution to a puzzle in Simon the Sorcerer, when Simon finds himself locked inside a pantry.
  • This is one of the first puzzles in the Crimson Room series of You Wake Up in a Room Flash games. Although unlocking that door only lets you into another locked room, this one more secure.
  • Used in Alone In The Dark 2 by Carnby to get into the underground wine cellar.
  • This is one of two ways to get into the murder room in Post Mortem. The other involves regular lock-picking.
  • This shows up in prison with Zork: Grand Inquisitor. Though the genre savvy jailors didn't include a lock on your cell door, so you need first to cast a spell to create the lock and the key in the first place...
  • Very common in inventory-based casual adventure games.
  • You do this while playing as Nico on the second visit to the murdered hacker's appartment in Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon using her pencil and a handy nearby newspaper (the first time you climbed onto the balcony and opened the latch on a window with her press ID card).
  • One of the least-original challenges in Escape the Museum is this.
  • This is used to get into one room fairly late in Penumbra: Overture, though bizarrely the room it's done in seems relatively modern.
  • Discussed in Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded, as seen in the page quote. Note that the door Larry was talking about was a sliding door, so it wouldn't have worked anyway.
  • One escape from the Botanica casual game series uses this method. Paper isn't necessary, as the key falls on a floor mat already protruding under the (very ill-fitting) door.
  • Subverted in the second Nightmare Realm hidden object game, as the key falls through a crack in the floor while it's being drawn under the door.

Western Animation
The Key Is Behind the LockStock PuzzleKnights and Knaves

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