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August 3, 2007 6:08 AM   Subscribe

The inscrutable Crocodile Dentist Toy: does the crocodile really snap at random? Or is there a way to outsmart the reptile?

The Hasbro "Crocodile Dentist" toy (known as "Croco Doc" in other countries) works by snapping if exactly one of its' 15 teeth is pressed down, leading to great joy and shrieking in players young and old. The fun part: there is no way of predicting which one of the teeth will be the "bad" one in every round. Or is there? I've always wondered whether there might be a secret sequence of "bad teeth." Or is it "really" random, and if yes, how does one mechanically accomplish this?
I'm on the verge of performing a vivisection on our crocodile in order to find out - help me to avoid this cruel procedure!
posted by The Toad to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you really want to cheat, just press down lightly on the tooth first. The "trigger" tooth offers slightly more resistance than a non-trigger tooth. We used to yell at my stepson for cheating this way. (I've never noticed any pattern, not from lack of trying).

I think for the good of AskMe, you should open the thing up and let us know how it works. I'm sure you'll be able to put it back together.
posted by Otis at 7:01 AM on August 3, 2007

If you don't want to open it up, you could try to keep a list of which tooth is the active tooth, followed by which tooth is it in the next game. Eventually a pattern may emerge.
posted by drezdn at 7:20 AM on August 3, 2007

The reviews on BoardGameGeek don't have a definitive answer, but there seems to be some consensus that the act of opening the mouth moves a spring-loaded mechanism to determine the "bad" tooth. One reviewer suggested that you could finesse it by opening the mouth less or more, which sounds about right for a gear-driven solution.

BTW- Shocking Roulette is both an update and distillation of this.
posted by mkultra at 7:36 AM on August 3, 2007

Best answer: I opened one up (for the purposes of unjamming it). I can't remember the exact details but it was indeed a wheel that spun round, powered by the same spring and at the same time as the jaw closes.
posted by edd at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

My friends use the toy for their game of "Crocohol"(bitten? drink!).

I think they have the best solution, as after a few rounds, you wouldn't care about the mechanism.
posted by mjbraun at 9:05 AM on August 3, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! I am relieved that I am not the only one who ponders this important scientific problem.
However, the crocodile will not be opened up, since I am sure that it *can* feel pain (the fact that it, after all, seeks treatment for a toothache seems to indicate this, right?).

Otis, I had found out about the "cheat," but as you describe, this only leads to getting yelled at by other players (especially if they're adult and drunk, as professed by mjbraun).

Odin's dream and especially edd, your description of the mechanics answers the question for me. A friend had suggested that there might be a spinning wheel, but: I didn't believe him since one could not hear the slightest whirring inside while "reloading" the thing.
So Edd, one more question if you remember, at what point does the wheel spin? Is it while the croc is snapping, so that the any whirring sound is drowned out? Or is there no whirring at all because the wheel is totally silent?

On a more scientific note: drezdn, listing the tooth sequence seems to be an intuitively sensible (yet exhausting) empirical approach. We have made some experiments in this direction, but were not able to find a simple (i.e. short) sequence. What if there is a regularity, but one that only repeats after hundreds or thousands of rounds? I'm afraid my mathematical/statistical talent or knowledge is not sufficient for finding out about randomness or regularity the empirical way...
posted by The Toad at 9:43 AM on August 3, 2007

and at the same time as the jaw closes.

The wheel spins when the mouth snaps shut.
This would drown out any sort of whirring or motion sounds. (but truthfully, I don't think it spins that fast.)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 12:16 AM on August 4, 2007

So, if I'm understanding this right...

Pulling open the croc's jaws pulls on some kind of energy storage device (probably a spring). Pressing the armed tooth releases a "break" on the wheel, which allows it to be affected by [the spring], causing the wheel to spin, which repositions the trigger for the break-release-mechanism [sore tooth] randomly, as in roulette.


If so, you could find that certain teeth are more likely to end up "sore", as the wheel is unlikely to be perfectly balanced (unless Hasbro, et al., also work in the casino field--which for all I know they could). Try putting it on a slight incline, too, and see if that helps.
posted by anaelith at 9:16 AM on August 5, 2007

Yup, it spun as the jaw snapped if I remember right. It was also a pretty quiet mechanism.
posted by edd at 6:37 AM on August 6, 2007

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