Idiom: a complicated (apparently insoluble) problem.

E.g., President Bush's plan to foster cooperative efforts between government and religion-based groups may open a legal can of worms.

"The explosive growth of the Net music business also has opened up a copyright and licensing can of worms." --CNET, April 15, 1998
Metaphor comes from a container of bait, which would have a wriggling, tangled mass of worms, from which it is difficult to extract a single worm required for baiting a fishing pole.
One of the infamous items from the first two Earthworm Jim games. The can of worms gives you a continue.

What makes it a bit of a legend is how it was handled in the games. In the first game, the manual stated:

The primary method of getting continues was collecting 60 fuel cells in Andy Asteroids?, but the can of worms? Well, the manual for Earthworm Jim 2 clearly stated:

    "Can of Worms: Okay, we lied to you in the first one. There was no can of worms."

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