Q. On the bottom of my Applebees' receipts, there is a survey/sweepstakes that can be entered for a chance to win $1,000. The last line reads, "Canadian winners subject to skills testing requirements." What the heck does that mean?
-- Barb W., of Shiloh
A. Say what you will about our fun-loving American government bureaucrats, it appears those civil servants to the north have us trumped this time.
According to the Criminal Code of Canada, for-profit gambling is prohibited -- except, of course, for provincial lotteries, licensed casinos and charities. In effect, this prohibits stores, radio stations, restaurants, etc., from offering any giveaway based purely on chance like your Applebees sweepstakes.
Fortunately, not all of the Canadian lawmakers were killjoys. In another exception to the rule, they said such promotions are legal if they involve a combination of skill and chance. So if you, say, lived in Montreal and won that sweepstakes, you could claim the $1,000 if you performed a task or answered a question that required skill or knowledge -- the "skills test."
Don't worry, you don't have to be a MENSA genius. You likely won't be asked to name the capital of Assyria or who played left wing for Toronto in game three of the 1922 Stanley Cup championship.
In 1984, for example, a court ruled that a rather elementary four-step math problem was sufficient to meet the requirement: Multiply 228 by 21, add 10,824, divide by 12 and, finally, subtract 1,121.
Other legal tests have included estimating the number of beans in a jar and the time it would take a barrel to float downstream. But before you start thinking they're getting too soft, they did rule that shooting a turkey at 50 yards and quickly peeling a potato were too easy.
Still, they're apparently dumbing down the tests all the time -- sort of like going from the $1,000 Jeopardy question to the $200. In the past 20 years, math questions -- the most popular -- have gone to three steps and often do not involve numbers with more than two digits. Some reportedly involve only one-digit numbers and ask the contestant to divide by 1. Oooh, tough one.
"You don't have to have any type of aptitude," said Michael Katz, the CEO of Education411.com whose sister site offers scholarship giveaways, during an interview with Wired. "It is simply a way around or way to work within the law."
Don'tcha just love red tape?
Q. I saw an article where there was to be a movie about Franklin D. Roosevelt. I don't remember the name of the movie. Can you fill me in? I really want to see it.
-- D.C., of Hecker
A. What you may -- or may not -- want to see is "Hyde Park on Hudson," a 2012 alleged biography starring Bill Murray as the nation's 32nd president and Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Laura Linney.
It centers on a June 1939 weekend when England's King George and Queen Elizabeth visit the U.S. in hopes of convincing FDR to join the war effort. But Roosevelt apparently has more important things in mind -- like spending time with women other than Eleanor, including Margaret "Daisy" Suckley (Linney), his sixth cousin and eventual mistress.
With such star power, the studio probably saw big dollar signs, but reviews have been harsh and the picture has made only a paltry $5 million since its release in early December.
"It generates all the excitement of a stifled yawn," is a typical comment by Peter Travers in Rolling Stone, who says Murray's performance cannot overcome a "leaden" script. Only 34 percent of the audience at Rotten Tomatoes liked it. And it is rated R, so be prepared for a graphic sexual sequence or two.
However, if you're still game, it is showing at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac in St. Louis.
Q. I recently bought a garment with care symbols I do not recognize. Help, please.
-- Phyllis White, of O'Fallon
A. Boy, you really can't tell how to take care of your clothes without a program these days.
The label you sent me says you should wash the garment in cold water using the gentle cycle, use non-chlorine bleach as needed, tumble dry in low heat and do not iron.
All of these symbols are found easily online. The most concise collection may be at www.textileaffairs.com/lguide.htm. Just download the PDF file and print. I will, however, send you -- and anyone else who requests it -- a copy.
What Elvis Presley hit is based on the Italian folk song "O Sole Mio"?
Answer to Tuesday's trivia: The most likely source of the common exclamation "Great Scott!" is probably as a reference to American Civil War Gen. Winfield Scott, known to his troops as Old Fuss and Feathers. An 1871 issue of The Galaxy magazine contained this: "'Great Scott!' he gasped in his stupefaction, using the name of the then commander-in-chief for an oath, as officers sometimes did in those days."
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or email@example.com or call 239-2465.