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File:Find x 300 2285.jpg

You never said which x...

I should have been more specific!
—Last Words of The Ghost of Captain Peghook, DuckTales (2017)

Someone does something outrageous by finding a loophole in the rules, which were too narrowly written to consider such impossibilities. Loophole Abuse is a form of Refuge in Audacity—which still allows the agent to claim they were following the rules.

Sometimes the loophole doesn't even really exist, but the competitor makes everyone think it does. Occasionally the loopholes were planted to enable Loophole Abuse.

Compare Screw the Rules, I Make Them. Also contrast Bothering by the Book, where someone becomes a pest by following the rules to the letter, without looking for loopholes. If someone else finds a loophole, it's My Rule Fu Is Stronger Than Yours. Not unknown as a subversion of Just Following Orders and Exact Words. If a rule is instituted solely to close the loophole, you have an Obvious Rule Patch.

In games, this may often be the result of some kind of oversight by the creators. A programming oversight can cause someone to do something they did not actually intend, such as killing a mob intended to be invincible.

Common variants are the Animal Athlete Loophole which exists because no rule bars animals from playing sports, and Flexible Tourney Rules, wherein a characters abilities may violate the rules of the game. Scrabble Babble is Loophole Abuse for Scrabble. When applied to Tabletop Games, it becomes the annoying Rules Lawyer. See also Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty.

In Real Life this is rare for two simple reasons: First, loopholes are quickly closed once discovered. Second, many systems have Rule Zero: some designated referee, judge, or authority figure has the absolute final word...

A favorite weapon of the Jackass Genie.

Of course, this rarely happens in fictional instances, because of the Rule of Drama.

See also Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught. Related to the Lord British Postulate, which may require some Loophole Abuse to actually pull off the kill.

Examples of Loophole Abuse include:



  • This Segata Sanshiro commercial. Apparently there's no rule against grabbing a guy off the sideline and hurling him at the ball to score a goal for your team.


  • A puzzle requires drawing a full box with an X in the middle without taking your pencil off the paper. Normally, this would be impossible...but there Ain't No Rule that says you can't fold the paper over before you start to draw; with this trick, you just draw a square "C" over where the paper overlaps, unfold the paper so the "c" "breaks" into two horizontal lines, then draw an hourglass in the empty space, all without lifting up the pencil. A Variant: draw a circle with a dot in the middle without taking your pencil off the paper.
    • Since the exact dimensions the x in the middle of the box must be aren't specified, you can also get away with this one: Draw one side of a square and then draw a diagonal line, which will connect to the other end of the opposite side of the square, which you then draw. Repeat this on the other side to finish the x, and then complete the box by drawing the final two sides of the square, tracing over previously drawn lines to avoid having to lift your pencil.
    • In that case, you take a pencil, place it on a piece of paper, then casually whip out a pen with which you then draw the dotted circle... Without the pencil leaving the paper.
    • Alternately, use a mechanical pencil, draw a circle, press on the button to retract the lead, move to the center of the circle, press the button again to extend the lead, and complete the dot.
      • Do note that that puzzle also makes no mention regarding overlapping lines, meaning you can draw the box, draw a diagonal from the last corner, retrace a side, then do the other diagonal.
        • Yes it does, but I am not sure that it makes mention of using two pencils...
          • Does it specify not using extra lines? If not than you can just draw all you need to in order to solve both of these.
  • It's not uncommon to encounter a number puzzle that has no solution unless you exploit the rules in this fashion. For example, there's a famous Henry Dudeney puzzle where you have to circle six of the following numbers to make a total of 21:

9 9 9 7 7 7 5 5 5 3 3 3 1 1 1

    • It can't be done as intended, because the total will always be even. Dudeney's solution? There Ain't No Rule saying you can't turn the paper upside-down first, letting you circle three 6s and three 1s.
    • A reader came up with an alternative solution; drawing a single circle around two 1s to get 11, then circling three 3s and the other 1.
  • The classic "nine dots" puzzle challenges you to connect a square of nine dotes with just four straight lines without lifting your pen from the paper. It's impossible to do this unless you literally "think outside the box" and notice that there's nothing in the puzzle that forbids letting the lines run outside of the square.
    • Or you can fold the paper, use a very thick line, connect your four straight lines with a few curvy lines, etc.
    • Nobody said what shape it had to be, you can start at one corner, go out, go diagonal, go back, and go diagonal again.
  • Tie a knot in a length of rope with both hands without letting go of the rope. There Ain't No Rule saying you can't tie your arms in a knot first (ie, fold your arms).
    • Or tie the knot around your arm, or tie an unknot, or stop holding it with one hand, but keep a firm grip with the other, and thus not letting go, or tying the knot in a different part of the rope, or don't hold on with your hands in the first place (but still use your hands in some other way) or hold the rope in a circle around you while tying a knot with a piece of string while inside the circle.
  • One worksheet that is sometimes given to students in (usually elementary) school describes the classic "You are in a supermarket but find that your cart can only make left turns. Navigate the supermarket, getting everything on your list making only left turns"-maze scenario. There was no rule stating people can't draw a U-turn back to the start (where they get the cart" and write "Get a new cart that isn't broken."


  • For quite a while Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark exploited a longstanding critic tradition of not releasing a review until after opening night by labeling all of their productions as "dress rehearsals"—despite selling tickets for them to the public at full price. In fact, rumor had it that the producers intended to keep it in dress rehearsals its entire run and never formally open it.
    • Then again, there's no rule that says critics have to wait for opening night to review a show either—a fact many reviewers took advantage of when the official opening had been delayed one too many times. To say they were unkind would be a massive understatement.

Web Original

  • Elaine E. Nalley in the Whateley Universe is so notorious for doing this at Whateley Academy that the headmistress gave her the codename Loophole. As a Rules Lawyer, this can cause problems. Eventually, she discovers that the administration believes in Rule Zero.
    • In another Whateley example, Jobe Wilkin's mandatory school codename is... Jobe Wilkins. It's not just megalomania, given his notoriety as the only son[1] of the setting's Captain Ersatz of Dr. Doom he figures he's not going to go unrecognized in any event.
  • Ain't no rule that vampires can't be gymnasts!
  • Skeletor competes in a Pokémon match [dead link]
  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, the 1964 Summer Olympics saw both the United States and the Soviet Union field teams filled to the brim with super-humans. In some cases, the "athletes" were quite obviously superhuman. Olympic officials swiftly closed the loophole that allowed superhuman "athletes" and disqualified both teams before competition actually began.
  • A big problem in the Salvation War is that nobody has made laws pertaining to the dead, which causes quite a few legal headaches.
    • Another time, a British colonel tried to take over the command of Free Hell, only to be stopped by Julius Ceaser who points out that because of the amount of people under his command, he is technically a general.
  • Skippy's List has examples:

124. Two drink limit does not mean first and last.
125. Two drink limit does not mean two kinds of drinks.
126. Two drink limit does not mean the drinks can be as large as I like.
127. "No Drinking Of Alcoholic Beverages" does not imply that a Jack Daniel's® IV is acceptable.
135. An order to put polish on my boots means the whole boot.


There's nothing in the basketball rulebook that says a duck can't build a giant bin of money to swim in.


New Media

  1. At least at first, this is Whateley after all