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Get a Cluedo: The Wonderful Story of Everyone's Favorite Mystery Game

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A few days ago, I was in the grocery store when I came across a board game promising endless hours of family fun called "Cluedo." To my surprise, the game parked at the endcap was the British version of Clue. You might remember Clue as the game that made murder an innocent pastime (not unlike Risk did with Napoleonic world domination and unabashed despotism), that gave rise to phrases like "in drawing room with the rope," and that spawned one of the Greatest Movies of All Time. 

Most stunning of all, I learned that Clue is not an American invention. Along with cricket, irony and the efficient subjugation of many different peoples, the legendary mystery board game is something that the Brits gave us! Here's the full story:

The Retired Clerk with a Pencil in the Study.

Cluedo was invented way back in the 1940s by a retired solicitor's clerk named Anthony Pratt. His idea was simply to create a murder mystery game that unfolded in an old mansion, with players adopting British aristocrat stereotypes. Colonel Mustard, for example, was a certain type of English military man who'd spent time in India; Professor Plum was the absent-minded professor and Miss Scarlett was the sexy femme fatale. It was a precisely British sort of game, inspired by the genteel detective stories written by the likes of Agatha Christie. Of course, the original version did have some major differences.  

cluedoWhen the game was first patented in 1948, the game was called "Murder at Tudor Close." There were also ten characters instead of six, and a few extra weapons like an axe, a shillelagh (a type of traditional Irish truncheon), a bomb, a hypodermic syringe, poison and a poker. The players and gamepieces were whittled down to make the play a little quicker. As for the strange name, Cluedo was a pun on another popular board game, Ludo. But because game makers thought the word joke wouldn't fly in the US, they shortened it to Clue. A few other things didn't survive the transatlantic journey: In the American version, Dr. Black became Mr. John Boddy, the Reverend Green became just Mr. Green, a greed-obsessed mobster-type, and because a "spanner" doesn't make a ton of sense to Americans, it's known here as a wrench.

Clue Goes International

Once the game became popular "“ and it did, reaching more than 50 countries, selling hundreds of millions of copies. In fact, Clue is one of the few board games to surpass $1 billion in sales. Of course, that means game makers had to figure out ways to make it translate into other languages and cultures (many of the cast underwent career changes as well as sex changes to help with the transition). That said, the game is played the same and is generally called Cluedo in countries outside of North America, except in Brazil, where it's called Detetivo.

Meet the new Clue

It was a sad day that Hasbro decided to update Clue. The new Clue offers a whole new cast of characters, new weapons, and even a new mansion (once it was discovered that people didn't really know what a "conservatory" is anymore). While the colonels are professors are gone, the new version includes a a whole cast of tabloid stereotypes: a starlet, a former child actress, a football star turned sports announcer and an overnight billionaire who made his money in video games amongst others. The weapons are updated as well, with a bottle of pills (for poisoning not kicks), a trophy, and a barbell; all of which make us long for the original version even more. 

Essential Trivia you need to memorize before your next Clue Party

Here are just a few things everyone needs to know about Clue: 

* Anthony Pratt, Clue's inventor, allegedly sold his stake in the game in 1953 to fund his career as a concert pianist.

* According to the BBC, Clue is a popular musical in the States. I'm not entirely sure where they've gotten their information on the "popular" part, but Clue is indeed a musical, generally of the high school and community theatre variety. The musical features songs like "She Hasn't Got a Clue," "Once a Widow," and "Seduction Deduction" and premiered off-Broadway in 1997, to somewhat scathing reviews. 

simpsons_clue_3* There are 12 licensed versions of Clue currently published by its makers, Hasbro, including a Harry Potter version and a Simpsons version. And there were many other special editions in the past, including Scooby Doo, Alfred Hitchcock, Dungeons & Dragons, Disney's Haunted Mansion and Disney's Tower of Terror, and Franklin Mint (presumably, this is played with collectible plates of American presidents and kittens). 

* The character of the Singing Telegram girl in the movie Clue was played by Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's. Wiedlin also played Joan of Arc in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Alien Communications Officer Trillya in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Just one of those things is enough to render a mere mortal awesome.

* In addition to movies, several TV game shows, and a musical, Clue also inspired series of books for young readers, which were published by Scholastic in the 1990s. There were 18 books in total, with names like The Clue in the Shadows, The Revenge of the Mummy, The Secret Secret Passage and The Case of the Invisible Cat. Each one is broken down into a series of mini-mystery chapters, in which the eternally unlucky Mr. Boddy is always getting bumped off, leaving the reader to have to figure out the mystery.

Got any Clue/Cluedo/Detetivo memories you'd like to share? Any particularly memorable games that you've played "“ maybe even the legendary PikaClue?

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.


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