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Comic Strip / Lance Lawson

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Lance Lawson was a mystery-themed newspaper comic drawn by Norman Hamilton and written by Harry Cherney, which ran in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune in the late 1940's. In each installment, the hard-boiled detective Lance Lawson was faced with a new mystery, which he inevitably managed to solve within four panels by noticing the one detail that didn't fit in the suspect's story (with the reader challenged to figure out the answer himself before looking it up).

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Although it's pretty much forgotten today, various installments of the strip can be found on James Lilek's website, and occasionally appear on his blog.


This comic shows examples of:

  • Conviction by Contradiction: The entire premise of the comic; Lance always figures out the real culprit from a single slip of the tongue.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: The answer to this puzzle (the supposed Near East footage shows two-humped Asian camels instead of one-humped African camels).
  • Never Suicide: A number of puzzles involve faked suicide notes, e.g. here.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: The basic premise. In essentially all the strips Lance himself points out the culprit, the reader's task is to figure out how did Lance determine their guilt.
  • Separated by a Common Language: The solution to this puzzle involves a British politician's supposed suicide note using American terms. Also applies to this strip where a man's nationality is determined by his use of a specific term.
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  • Til Murder Do Us Part: A number of comics have the victim's wife being the culprit, such as this one.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Figuring out some puzzles requires the reader to have knowledge of obscure trivia, such as knowing when did postal cards first appear in the case of this strip. (It doesn't help that vital visual details are sometimes hard to make out in the online scans.) Some of them were probably easier back in the 40's. For example, this puzzle refers to something that was fairly recent news in 1948 but hardly remembered today.

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