OK, it's almost the weekend and I decided to sign up for a Windows Live beta off of the address I have linked to my IM account.
Nope, not recognized.
So Friday night I sent in a text request via a form off of the MSN support page
Thank you for contacting Microsoft Passport Network
Thank you for submitting your issue to Support.
A support representative will reply to your message.
Your Support Ticket Number:
For reference, please print this page or write down your support ticket number. Use this number when communicating with Support about this issue.
A number would have been nice. ; )
In the end, I received help from Passport Support and solved the problem.
The frustrating point is the Support team for Passport and the Windows Live beta teams aren't apparently connected very well -- their mutual success is connected through the most basic of experiences -- yet it took the customer (me) to make the connection. I ended up having to send two separate email trails to two separate Microsoft groups. And last, it appeared that neither group had access to the other's backstory on the support call.