7 Facts About Jenga

Chris Jackson, Getty Images
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Since the early 1980s, players all over the world have tested their nerves and tried to maintain a steady hand while hovering around Jenga. The deceptively simple rules of the building-block game require participants to try and withdraw a single piece from the tower of 54 blocks and place it on top. As the structure grows, it threatens to topple over. The player who pushes things too far and extracts that fateful support beam loses. For more on the game that’s sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, keep reading.

1. Jenga's inventor didn’t know she had invented Jenga.

Sabrina Ibrahim works to break a Guinness World Record of 30 levels in 'Jenga' in 11 minutes and 55 seconds in London in 2005
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Leslie Scott was born in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and spent her youth moving to cities across Africa. In the 1970s, Scott’s family often played with her brother’s amassed pile of building blocks, using them to build a swaying tower that would crumble if they weren’t careful. The family loved the game so much that they eventually ordered professionally-crafted bricks from a carpenter. It wasn’t until later on that Scott realized the game had been conceived within her household. “It was only when I moved to Oxford that I realized this wasn’t something everyone did,” Scott told the Somerset County Gazette in 2010.

In Oxford, England, Scott worked at Intel as an internal game designer to help employees learn new skills. In her spare time, she held dinner parties for friends. When they kept insisting on playing the “game with bricks," Scott decided to bring the game to market. Jenga—which is Swahili for “build”—was launched in the UK in 1983 and in Canada in 1984.

2. Jenga nearly bankrupted inventor Leslie Scott.

The early sales of Jenga were not encouraging. Because Scott was paying for production herself, the game’s lack of success had personal consequences. At one point, she told the Oxford Times in 2009, she contemplated selling both her house and her shares of Intel to help continue funding the game. Fortunately, her family backed the idea. Her then-partner agreed to be a guarantor on a loan, and Scott’s mother agreed to put her house up as collateral for a second loan.

Their trust was rewarded when the game appeared at the 1986 Toronto Toy Fair; Scott received orders for 400,000 copies. When Hasbro's then-chief executive Alan Hassenfeld saw the game, his reaction was: "We just have to have it." He quickly bought the distribution rights for the United States.

Jenga was released in North America in 1986 and became an immediate hit, though Scott’s deal left a lot to be desired: Scott has said she receives just 20 percent of the royalties on the game, an amount she said comes to about five cents for every $10 Jenga earns.

3. Jenga owes a debt to Trivial Pursuit.

A student attempts to break a Guinness World Record of 30 'Jenga' levels in 11 minutes and 55 seconds in London in 2005
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

The games couldn’t be more different: Jenga requires fine motor skills, while Trivial Pursuit requires a memory warehouse of knowledge. But according to Scott, Jenga might not have taken off if Trivial Pursuit, which launched in the U.S. in 1983, hadn’t been such a success. “I was extremely lucky that I launched Jenga just after Trivial Pursuit had hit the big time and the toy trade was actively looking for the next big board game,” she said.

At the time, the toy industry was heavily into electronic diversions, including the recently-released Nintendo Entertainment System. When Trivial Pursuit proved there was still a market for analog games—it sold 15 million copies in 1984 alone—Jenga was able to wedge a foot (or a block) in the door.

4. Jenga blocks aren’t identical.

While they may look similar, Jenga blocks have subtle differences in dimensions to make their construction less stable. Each brick is a different size and weight so no two games are alike.

5. There’s a world record for the tallest Jenga structure.

A student competes to break a Guinness World Record of 30 'Jenga' levels in 11 minutes and 55 seconds in London in 2005
Getty Images

In 1985, Jenga sales representative Robert Grebler pursued competitive play, stacking increasingly large towers of blocks. That year, he was able to complete a 40-layer structure consisting of three blocks per layer. According to Hasbro, it’s believed to be the tallest on record. He was apparently two blocks into the 41st layer before the structure became unstable. The official Jenga website indicates it’s actively seeking someone to beat the record.

A different, potentially more impressive feat was accomplished in 2019, when Tai Star Valianti of Pima, Arizona, managed to stack 353 Jenga blocks on top of one single upright block. The achievement earned Valianti a Guinness World Record.

6. There’s a Louis Vuitton version of Jenga.

Tired of playing Jenga with primitive wooden blocks? In 2019, luxury fashion label Louis Vuitton introduced a Jenga game made out of plexiglass. The set, which is simply called a "monogram tower" on LV's website, retails for $3050.

7. Someone played Jenga with construction equipment.

A 2019 publicity stunt by construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar USA involved recruiting enormous excavators, telehandlers, and loaders in service of manipulating 27 8-foot-long, 600-pound custom Jenga bricks. The 28-hour game ended with 13 layers.

12 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Easter Bunnies

This child clearly can't get enough Easter Bunny in her life.
This child clearly can't get enough Easter Bunny in her life.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Every year, thousands of families, church groups, and event planners enlist entertainment companies to dispatch a costumed bunny for their Easter celebrations. These performers often endure oppressive heat, frightened children, and other indignities to bring joy to the season.

It can be a thankless job, which is why Mental Floss approached several hares and their handlers for some insight into what makes for a successful appearance, the numerous occupational hazards, and why they can be harassed while holding a giant carrot. Here’s a glimpse of what goes on under the ears.

1. They might be watching netflix under the mask.

Has a bunny ever seemed slow to respond to your child? He or she might be in the middle of a binge-watch. Jennifer Ellison, the sales and marketing manager for San Diego Kids’ Party Rentals and a bunny wrangler during the Easter season, says that extended party engagements might lead their furry foot soldiers to seek distractions while in costume. “We book the bunny by the hour and he is often booked for multiple hour blocks,” she says. “Listening to music definitely helps the time pass.” One of her bunny friends who does a lot of shopping mall appearances has even rigged up a harness that can cradle a smart phone. “It sits above the bunny's nose, resting right at eye level for the performer inside, easily allowing the performer to stream Netflix, scroll through Facebook, or check emails.”

2. They can’t walk on wet grass.

Bunnies that appear at private functions, like backyard parties or egg hunts, have to maintain the illusion of being a character and not a human in a furry costume. According to Albert Joseph, the owner of Albert Joseph Entertainment in San Francisco and a 30-year veteran of Easter engagements, one of the cardinal rules is never to set foot on wet grass. Why? “They wear regular shoes under their giant bunny feet,” he says. “If they step on wet grass and then walk on cement, they’ll make a human foot print, not a bunny print.”

3. There’s a reason they might not pick up your kid.

Bunnies might be amenable to posing for a photo with your child on their lap, but they’re probably not going to grab the little tyke and sweep them off their feet. According to Steve Rothenberg, a veteran performer and owner of Talk of the Town Entertainment in Rockville, Maryland, deadlifting a kid is against the rules. “The last thing you want is to lift them up and have them knock off your head,” he says.

4. Giant carrots will invite inappropriate behavior.

A person dressed as the Easter bunny.
As the 3-foot-long carrot proves, adults are easily the least mature guests at a child's Easter party.
lisafx/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Joseph’s warren of party bunnies usually come equipped with a 3-foot-long giant carrot as a prop. While children are amused by the oversized vegetable, the adults at the parties usually can’t help making observations. “Practically every visit, there’s always someone saying, ‘My, what a big carrot you have,’” he says.

On one occasion, Joseph attended a function at a retirement home. One of the women, who he estimated to be in her 80s, commented on his big feet in a lascivious manner. “She told me she was in room 37.”

5. Clothes make the bunny.

Easter bunny at the White House.
Every year, a well-dressed Easter bunny visits Washington, D.C. for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

While “naked” (i.e., unclothed) bunnies remain popular, Ellison’s lineup also includes Mr. Bunny, a “classy lad with a top hat and vest,” and a Mrs. Bunny sporting a purple dress. Why would kids care if a bunny has sartorial sense? “Kids can probably better relate to a giant, furry character if it's dressed like a human,” Ellison says. “[And] we just thought the costumes looked cute.”

6. They can’t wear dark clothing underneath.

If a bunny wants to wear a black shirt under his or her fur, it stands to reason there wouldn’t be any issue: It's all hidden from sight. But Joseph insists that his cast stick with white apparel only. In addition to being cooler, it serves a practical function. “There’s always an opportunity to see a little something around the neckline or near the feet,” he says. Light clothing helps preserve the character.

7. They use an upholstery cleaner for their heads.

Most bunny costumes can be tossed in any regular washing machine, with the feet going in a larger commercial-use unit. But the heads, which are typically massive and unwieldy, get special attention. “You know those upholstery cleaners you can rent from a grocery store?” Joseph asks. “We use those. There’s a wand attachment to it for cleaning carpet.”

8. There’s a trick to keeping cool.

Costumes made of fake fur in the spring can be a recipe for disaster—or at least some lightheadedness. While none of the bunnies we profiled had experienced fainting spells, Ellison says that the trick to staying cool is actually adding a layer underneath the outfit. “Light, breathable clothing underneath the suit usually does the trick, but some people choose to wear an ice vest under the suit as well.”

Many bunnies also work in intervals: 45 to 50 minutes “on,” and 10 to 15 minutes in a private area to cool off and drink water. “Clients are usually understanding and sympathetic of the bunny and will allow even more breaks if necessary,” Ellison says.

9. Mints are essential.

Bunnies may favor carrots and grass, but their human operators need something other than that in order to deal with the humidity. Rothenberg says that his bunnies usually nibble on mints while working a crowd. “They’ll typically chew gum or have some kind of mint to keep their throat from drying out,” he says.

10. They use bunny handlers to prevent knockdowns.

A person dressed as the Easter bunny.
An Easter Bunny makes a young girl's day.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Any professional bunny knows that having an assistant watching their back is the best way to ensure an appearance goes smoothly. “Your vision is limited and you can’t really look to the left or right,” Rothenberg says. “Having an assistant prevents kids from running up behind you.”

11. They have damaged butts.

In order to ease apprehensive kids, Joseph advocates for his bunnies to squat near a child rather than bend over. “It gets them at a child’s level so they can touch and feel for themselves,” he says. “But a bunny that does a lot of squatting winds up needing their [costume] butts re-sewn. I’ve repaired a lot of them.” Joseph will also invite mothers to sit on the bunny’s lap so fearful children are more likely to approach. “You don’t want to prod the kid,” he says.

12. They’re not just for easter.

While bunny costume season is a fleeting few weeks, companies are happy to roll out their rabbits for other occasions. Once, Ellison sent out a bunny for a customer’s Alice in Wonderland-themed gathering. “The client wanted the White Rabbit, so we dressed up our bunny in a vest and top hat and gave him an over-sized pocket watch. It worked out great.”

This piece originally ran in 2017.

The 48 Most Frequently Banned Wedding Songs

Bogdan Kurylo/iStock via Getty Images
Bogdan Kurylo/iStock via Getty Images

Who among us hasn't attended a wedding and cringed at the playlist? In 2017, stats/polling site FiveThirtyEight asked more than two dozen professional DJs who had DJ’d around 200 weddings what songs couples ban from their weddings and, after surveying 182 wedding playlists, came up with a list of 48 songs. They gave each song a percentage, which represents the share of weddings that banned the song.

The first 10 on the list represent silly dances people like to do but shouldn’t do, like The Chicken Dance, The Macarena, and The Electric Slide. After that, the list starts to see overplayed songs like “Don’t Stop Believin',’” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Sweet Caroline,” and call-and-response songs like “Shout.” The list contains a mix of new and old hip-hop, R&B, and pop hits, and several songs ended up tied.

Interestingly, a few songs from FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 ultimate wedding playlist also appear on the banned list, including “Hey Ya!,” “Uptown Funk,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “Call Me Maybe.”

You may or may not agree with this list, but don’t feel bad if you decide to ban any of these songs from your own wedding playlist—chances are, someone out there agrees with you.

  1. “The Chicken Dance”

  1. “Cha-Cha Slide” // DJ Casper

  1. “Macarena” // Los Del Rio

  1. “Cupid Shuffle” // Cupid

  1. “YMCA” // Village People

  1. “Electric Boogie (Electric Slide)” // Marcia Griffiths

  1. “Hokey Pokey”

  1. “Wobble” // V.I.C.

  1. “Happy” // Pharrell Williams

  1. “Shout” // Isley Brothers

  1. “Love Shack” // The B-52's

  1. “We Are Family” // Sister Sledge

  1. “Blurred Lines” // Robin Thicke

  1. “Celebration” // Kool & The Gang

  1. Cotton Eye Joe” // Rednex

  1. “Dancing Queen” // ABBA

  1. “Don’t Stop Believin’” // Journey

  1. “Single Ladies” // BeyoncÉ

  1. “Sweet Caroline” // Neil Diamond

  1. “Turn Down for What” // DJ Snake & Lil Jon

  1. “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” // SilentÓ

  1. “Hot in Herre” // Nelly

  1. “Mony Mony” // Billy Idol

  1. “All About That Bass” // Meghan Trainor

  1. “Baby Got Back” // Sir Mix-a-Lot

  1. “Booti Call” // Blackstreet

  1. “Gangnam Style” // Psy

  1. “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” // Big & Rich

  1. “Stayin’ Alive” // Bee Gees

  1. “Sweet Home Alabama” // Lynyrd Skynyrd

  1. “Uptown Funk” // Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars

  1. “Wagon Wheel” // Nathan Carter

  1. “What Do You Mean?” // Justin Bieber

  1. “All of Me” // John Legend

  1. “Bohemian Rhapsody” // Queen

  1. “Brown Eyed Girl” // Van Morrison

  1. “Call Me Maybe” // Carly Rae Jepsen

  1. “Footloose” // Kenny Loggins

  1. “Get Low” // Lil Jon

  1. “Hey Ya!” // Outkast

  1. “Hotline Bling” // Drake

  1. “I Will Survive” // Gloria Gaynor

  1. “My Heart Will Go On” // CÉline Dion

  1. “SexyBack” // Justin Timberlake

  1. “Shake It Off” // Taylor Swift

  1. “Sugar” // Maroon 5

  1. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” // Bonnie Tyler

  1. “You Shook Me All Night Long” // AC/DC

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