Three Wise Guys

By Joe Heim, Justin Rude and Dan Zak
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Have a question only the Three Wise Guys can answer? Send it to wiseguys@ washpost.comand await their words of wise-dom.

Dear Wise Guys:

My friend and I were wondering if you could tell us where the phrase "close but no cigar" comes from. We analyzed it in depth and determined that it makes no sense at all.


Dan: No wonder you're confused. The saying is actually "cloves but no cigar" and was first uttered at Woodstock to an elderly man who had escaped from a nearby nursing home and wandered onto the farm looking for a stogie.

Justin: No part of Dan's answer is correct. Cigars were once popular fairground prizes. If you weren't strong enough to hammer the ball up to the bell, you were . . . well, you probably get it. In fact, games of skill and chance are behind many such phrases, including "playing the field," which comes from horse racing, and "he's on a roll," which entered the popular lexicon via the noble game of craps.

Dear Wise Guys:

Why is there a large gap between WBIG-FM and Fox TV? I like to watch the Redskins on TV and listen to Sonny and Sam on radio, but the disparity is about nine seconds!


Joe: An informed colleague who asked not to be identified (Paul Farhi) tells us that "nothing matches anything" when it comes to getting radio and TV to sync. He says coordinating the two is "difficult because radio and TV are sent to you by separate companies and arrive by various means." Further, live radio has a built-in delay of several seconds, while television (video and audio) has several built-in delays.

Justin: I've got a solution for you: TiVo the game and tape the radio broadcast. Then avoid any sports news for about five hours, sync your taped broadcast of Sonny and Sam squabbling to the muted TiVo playback and . . . you're all set. Couldn't be simpler.

Dear Wise Guys:

How do three talentless hacks like you rate a new column?


Dan: Because we're tall and very good-looking.

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