Friday, 3/11/11

[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/10" plug="friday-31111" puzz="CHE" anchor="ch"]5:31[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/10" plug="friday-31111" puzz="NYT" anchor="ny"]5:17[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/10" plug="friday-31111" puzz="LAT" anchor="la"]4:12[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/10" plug="friday-31111" puzz="CS" anchor="cs"]untimed[/time_hdr]
[time_hdr postdate="2011/03/10" plug="friday-31111" puzz="WSJ" anchor="ws"]8:02[/time_hdr]

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s New York Times crossword

3/11/11 NY Times crossword solution 0311

The King of the Triple Stack makes a quadruple stack, and stretches the grid to 16 rows to accommodate the quad stack in the middle. For added oomph, Martin puts a couple more solo 15s above and below the quad stack.

But! I must hereby declare a moratorium on quad stacks that include A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE (38a). Remember seeing that in last Friday’s Krozel NYT? What’s more, the two previous uses of that entry in the NYT crossword were in other themelesses by Ashwood-Smith and Krozel. Guys! We’re done with that one now.

As you expect to see with triple or quad stacks. there are plenty of short answers in the “blah” category—ANEAR, ITT, PALO, OLIN, LOTI, AT ‘EM, SESS, CITER, DAE, A PIE, NEI, and D’ETRE were the ones that jumped out at me. The only ones that forced me to use all the crossings were LOTI (31d: [French novelist Pierre], whom I’ve never heard of) and NEI (54a: [Verdi's "__ giardin del bello"]).

Highlights:

  • 17a. “SOUND THE RETREAT!” Or, as they say in Monty Python Land, “Run away!”
  • 22a. LOW-RENT, colorful term.
  • 39a. I like LITERARY STUDIES, but I’m not sure how it’s a [Concentration for an English major]. I figured it would be something along the lines of American lit or British lit.
  • 4oa, 56a. ON INTIMATE TERMS and ANTIDEPRESSANTS are also cool entries.
  • 1d. [What the narrator "threw up" in "The Night Before Christmas"] is the SASH of a window. No, he did not eat it. The clue amused me.
  • 3d. Excellent clue/answer combo: ["Seriously?"] = “Really?” = “YOU DO?” I believe the instigating comment was “I like to do crossword puzzles.” *gasp!*
  • 4d. Columbarium is a pretty word, though its etymology leaves me cold. From the Latin for “pigeon house”?!? What on earth are people doing putting a funeral URN in a pigeon house? [Columbarium object] is the clue.

Worst clue of the month:

13d. TEASE is clued not as an innocuous verb, but as [One likely to get men's attention]. Really, Martin and Will? Really? It’s a blatantly sexist term, and I’m not the only one who has recognized this. There’s a website called Name It, Change It devoted to rooting out sexism in political discourse, and they’ve singled out “tease.” (Of course, sexist language sullies everything else too, not just politics.)

Crossword constructors and editors: TEASE can easily be clued as a verb—not just ribbing someone, but also teasing hair and teasing out the truth. I’m a huge fan of Ben Tausig’s approach to including offensive terms—his clue will call out the word as a term people used to use that alienates others, rather than presenting it without judgment and thereby furthering the word’s ability to marginalize. Longtime readers may remember my criticism of COED clued as a noun meaning “college girl” rather than an adjective meaning “containing both men and women” (as in a college dorm). Turn off Google’s “safe search” and do a search for the plural “coeds” and you’ll see that the noun is incredibly demeaning (via porn) to women, who now make up a majority of college students and need no special designation as an exotic species. If you’re gonna put it in the puzzle and it has to be a noun because it’s plural, for Pete’s sake, clue it as a word that was used in the ’50s and ’60s and don’t pretend it still just means “female college student.”

Weird bits:

  • 9d. DRESS FASTENERS—is that a “thing”? Or is it just standard fasteners that happen to be affixed to a dress?
  • 32d. Didn’t even see CORMS while I was solving, or its clue: [Bulblike bases of stems]. I’ve encountered that botanical word before, but I can’t say the clue would have directed me to the answer!
  • 53d. Never heard of [Tom T. Hall's "Mama Bake __"] A PIE, but somehow guessed it. This mama doesn’t like pie, except for pecan pie.

Victor Barocas’s Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, “Middle Schools”

3/11/11 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword solution

The “middle schools” of the title are the abbreviated colleges and universities that appear in rebus squares in the midst of the answers to the starred clues. USC (University of Southern California, where my cousin Alison became an engineer) joins COUSCOUS and ETRUSCAN. NYU (New York University) is found in two two-word phrases, PONY UP and AGONY UNCLE. (Never heard of an “agony uncle,” but I like it!) MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where lots of puzzlers went) sits in UNCOMMITTED and SEMITIC. RIBCAGE and CLUB CAR have BC (Boston College). Tyler Hinman and Dave “Evad” Sullivan’s alma mater is RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), and that’s hiding in MR. PIBB and AFTERPIECE. This brings us back to the top, where GW is in SONGWRITER and BIG WIG. I don’t know what “GW” is. Is it not missing a “U”?

Anyway, the answers that secrete the rebused schools are a lively bunch, and the phrase LEARNING CENTERS also appears in the puzzle to fill out the theme some more. (Not that it needed it.)

Favorite fill includes FRACAS, AUGEAN (like the task of cleaning out stables…with a toothbrush), HOT DOG as a verb, SERBIA, Chaucer’s REEVE, and “NO DUH.”

Donna Levin’s Los Angeles Times crossword

3/11/11 LA Times crossword solution

This theme makes me feel young! There are four puns on old game show titles, and I think the shows are all older than I am.

  • 17a. [Game show about bribery at a checkpoint?] is SALE OF THE SENTRY. I don’t know what Sale of the Century is. It might not even be an especially old game show. It isn’t! But I missed all its incarnations.
  • 27a. Queen for a Day is old, though, I’m sure. [Game show about an Algerian governor's search for his spouse?] turns it into QUEEN FOR A DEY, and we get one of those Middle Eastern/North African ruler crosswordese words to boot. Don’t forget that both BEY and DEY are words along the lines of AGA/AGHA, EMIR/AMIR/EMEER/AMEER, and PASHA. I have a soft spot for PASHA, personally.
  • 48a. [Game show in which "Stuttering pig" might be a clue?] clues NAME THAT TOON (Name That Tune). That show was still on when I was a kid and boy, it’d be hard to find a game show I am less suited for than that one.
  • 63a. [Game show in which couples confess indiscretions?] turns To Tell the Truth into TWO TELL THE TRUTH. A.k.a. The Newlywed Game or more recent lie-detector shows in which one spouse reveals horrible things. Man, those all tread dangerous ground.

Oftentimes, what I like best about a Donna Levin puzzle isn’t the theme, it’s the way she clues ordinary words. (Granted, some of the clues may be editor Rich Norris’s work. But I’m pretty sure Donna’s got a strong cluing style that emerges from the other end of the editing process.) To wit:

  • 23a. [Paragon of redness] is a BEET. “Wow, Beet, you are so incredibly red! You’re the very epitome of what redness should be!”
  • 33a. SIAM is clued as a [One-time neighbor of French Indochina]. French Indochina is now Vietnam, Siam is now Thailand.
  • 37a. [Arabic is one of its two official langs.] is an interesting and semi-surprising clue for ISR., or Israel.
  • 68a. [Mobile one of song] is a really playful opera clue for DONNA, as in the aria “La donna è mobile.” I grew up with a LaDonna Bugg in the neighborhood. Apparently she changed her name when she got married, but unfortunately she’s not LaDonna E. Mobile.
  • 30d. [Bonnie Blue's daddy] is RHETT. Butler, I presume?
  • 40d. [Points of initial progress] is a straightforward clue, btu TOEHOLDS is a great answer.
  • 47d. ATE CROW is great fill, too.
  • 52d, 54d. [Out] works twice as hard to clue both DATED (as in “out of style”) and LOOSE (as in “out of the cage”).

In all fairness, there are also some stinkers in the fill. I’m looking at you, SUS- and -IANS and DEO. And you’re not off the hook either, stale repeaters—ECRU, HRE, ARI, IPSE, ENOS, ALTE, APSE, ELYSE, ETNA, and ARLO. But to Donna’s credit, instead of making frowny faces when I hit those entries, I blithely skipped past them because I was enjoying so many of the other clues.


Updated Friday morning:

Randall J. Hartman’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Don’t Forget to Set Your Clock”—Janie’s review

Just like yesterday, we’ve a calendar-related theme. The title reminds us that tomorrow night we “spring forward.” Daylight hours are comin’ back—yay! We may lose an hour of sleep (for one night), but this event is one of my faves of the whole year. No joke. And how does Randy mark the occasion? With an elegant anagram puzzle. It all gets spelled out at 64-Across, where [Daylight saving adjustment (and a hint to the starts of 17-, 24-, 39- and 51-Across)] clues TIME CHANGE. And what will you do when you encounter those clues? Why, change the letters in the word time to arrive at the appropriate response. This-a way:

  • 17A. MITER JOINT [Frame job]. As in picture frame.
  • 24A. “I’M TELLING!” [What little brother might say to big brother after getting beaten up]. Familiar familial scenario, no?
  • 39A. ITEM ON THE AGENDA [Bullet at a board of directors meeting, perhaps]. No deadly munitions at this meeting, thank you very much.
  • 51A. EMITTANCE [Ability to give off radiant energy]. Say wha’? Yep. M-W confirms it, but you might want to check out that “emissivity” link, too, which is a little closer to the sense of Randy’s clue.

Now my first reaction to all of these except “I’m telling!” was not particularly enthusiastic. I enjoyed the clues more than the fill. But then, when the “aha” finally occurred, and all the parts came together, I had to smile. And again, just about anything that celebrates daylight saving time will do that for me. If the fill is “more functional than fun” on its surface, it still makes for a solid theme set and with 64A. to pull it all together, a pleasurable solve.

Just like yesterday, too, but not in nearly so pleasing a way, we see “NO, SIR” in the grid and also (though it was in its singular form yesterday) MARTINIS. Those martinis do tie in well, though with BESOT [Make drunk as a skunk], MAI TAI [Curaçao cocktail] and [Where you might see a White Russian and a Blue Latvian] BAR TAB.

Clearly Randy aims to keep MORALE [Group spirit] up, including such word-playful clue/fill combos (that do tend to RIB [Poke fun at] the too serious solver) as:

  • [Sundance's favorite Place?]/ETTA
  • [Line of clothing?]/SEAM
  • [Watchdog org?]/ASPCA and
  • [Full moon display?]/REAR.

Ken Bessette’s Wall Street Journal crossword, “Find Out”

Wall Street Journal crossword answers 3/11/11 "Find Out"

Hah! This puzzle has the same title and theme concept as a recent syndicated Sunday LA Times puzzle. “Find Out” means “F in, D out,” and each theme entry has changed an F to a D. Both puzzles have a STAY-AT-HOME FAD and a FOG->DOG play, but are otherwise distinct. (This is one of those times when two constructors independently have the same idea—letter-swap themes are nothing radical, so it’s not surprising—and their puzzles are published in different venues.) I like some of Bessette’s theme answers better than the set in that LAT puzzle, while the others are comparably “eh”:

  • 27a. [Bay Area warning sign?] immediately made me think of the tsunami warning/advisory in effect right now, but of course the theme entry has nothing to do with that: BEWARE OF THE FOG (dog).
  • 43a. I wish ALL-NITE FINER (diner) were spelled all-night.
  • 57a. [Telecommuting, these days?] is a terrific clue for STAY-AT-HOME FAD (dad). The LAT clue was [Craze for some moms?], which I found disappointing.
  • 65a. ROLL OVER AND PLAY DEAF (dead) is funny, with its [Pretend you don't hear the alarm clock?] clue.
  • 74a. [Something that might help a husband see more clearly?] clues WIFE (wide) ANGLE LENS. Well, that doesn’t make much sense at all.
  • 91a. [Doing nothing but eating pasta?] is an easy clue for CARBO LOAFING (loading).
  • 105a. Saving the best for last, we have the fabled LOST CITY OF GOLF (gold), [El Dorado Country Club?].

Fill highlights:

  • LISA BONET and DAVE GROHL, “SURE CAN!,” GO POSTAL, LADY DAY (93d: [March 25, in the Christian calendar]).
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35 Responses to Friday, 3/11/11

  1. Martin says:

    FYI, the TEASE clue is not the one I submitted.

    -Martin Ashwood-Smith

  2. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Thanks for that, Martin. Do you remember what your clue was?

  3. Martin says:

    My original clue was: “Nudzh”

    -MAS

  4. Deb Amlen says:

    Oh my goodness, I am just kvelling right now.

  5. Zulema says:

    I wiuld have preferred “nudzh” also. Amy, they had these pigeon houses in France, probably elsewhere, with little compartments for the pigeons, hence the resemblance.

  6. Tuning Spork says:

    Hmm. CO-ED irks me, too, when it’s clued refering only to female college students because it makes no sense. But what’s sexist about “tease”? In it’s long-form it’s crude, but it’s synonymous with “flirt” and, as evidenced by it’s long-form, it is gender specific. But does being gender specific, in and of itself, make it sexist? For example, is “witch” a sexist term because it refers exclusively to female counterparts of male “warlocks”?

  7. Anne E says:

    Speaking of ACPT (not that anyone was), since when are the constructor names released before the tournament??? OMG, as they say in BEQs.

  8. Karen says:

    Tuning spork, what would be the male equivalent of ‘tease’?

    In the CHE (appropriate place for it) I was confounded by AUGEAN. Now I’m wondering why I haven’t seen that vowel heavy word in crosswords more often.

  9. Tuning Spork says:

    Karen, for some reason your question reminds me of a scene from “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion”.

    R & M go to a dance club and a very well-dressed guy dances up to Romy to “chat her up”. “Wow, is that an Armani?,” Romy asks. “Yes,” he replies. “So what do you?” “I’m a suit salesman.” Not missing a beat, Romy dances away from him.

  10. sbmanion says:

    Karen,

    Does MASH work? The term itself is neutral, but I think a masher is exclusively male, so mash has at least somewhat of a male feel to it. I don’t think it is an exact counterpart, but it is my best guess.

    http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-mas1.htm

    I love the multistack puzzles because they are often hard for me.

    Steve

  11. Rex says:

    Re: WSJ—[Buyer be where?] made me laugh out loud mid-solve. Clues rarely, rarely do that. Nice job KB/MS.

  12. Martin says:

    Amy,

    The site you linked makes a good point. All politicians are coy at times and only describing female politicians’ behavior in terms of “stereotypical female mating maneuvers—flirting, teasing, and acting coy” is sexist.

    You seem to assume that these “stereotypical female mating maneuvers” are only a myth. I don’t see that position taken at the nameitchangeit site. “Don’t apply it to politics” (with which I agree) is not the same as “no woman has ever been coy” (which strikes me as silly). Not all women are coy. Most women aren’t coy. But implying some women are coy is offensive? I don’t get that.

    BTW, I assume “nudzh” is the same word that I spell “noodge.” If that’s the case, I would have objected to it as a clue for TEASE because a noodge (or to noodge) is a pest or annoying person (or pester or annoy). While teasing can be annoying, a noodge doesn’t intend to annoy, he is inherently annoying. If I were teasing my sister, my father might tell me to stop being a schnook, not a noodge. Pointing out every ’61 Impala on the way to visit my grandparents in Brooklyn would get “stop being a noodge.”

  13. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Martin, I believe you don’t read the same radical feminist blog I do. Patriarchy, women as a “sex class,” women complying with the patriarchy’s expectations to get along in the world, etc. I simply do not see ANY advantage to cluing a word in a way that CAN be seen as sexist (or racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, etc.) when there are so many alternatives that won’t offend anyone. Why defend that? Why not work toward building a better society in which people aren’t hamstrung by so much enforcement of strict gender roles? Why go along with that, Vichy-style, when it is so EASY (in crossword cluing) to NOT do that?

    I’m no Yiddish scholar, but my sense of “noodge” was fairly far afield of “tease.” So I understand why Will opted to change the clue. I’m just not happy with the direction the new clue took.

  14. joon says:

    anne: !

    can we all speculate now that ashish/narayan are responsible for #5? and maybe mike nothnagel’s turn for #8?

  15. Anne E says:

    joon, totally the kind of speculating I’m currently engaging in! Nothnagel’s not an unlikely 5, either.

  16. Sara says:

    My money’s on a Veng.-Venk. #5, also – with a heavily cryptic feel.

    Thanks for taking on the TEASE clue, Amy.

    Otherwise, one of my fastest Fridays, which makes me feel good going into next week.

  17. John Haber says:

    I liked the grid a lot, didn’t care myself for the clue for TEASE (but nudzh would truly have had me scratching my head), found the puzzle very hard, and saw a fair degree of obscurities (e.g., ITT, CARPUTER, CORMS). I was struck myself at how overly familiar A LOT ON ONE’S PLATE had become, but I was sadly grateful for it as a way to get going.

  18. Dan F says:

    re ACPT: Pete Muller doesn’t make “normal” puzzles, so he’s the other candidate for #5. Either way, we’ll probably have two wacky themes, which is great. Nothnagel has to be the odds-on favorite for #8, with Merl as the dark horse. I’m gonna browse the mathematics articles on Wikipedia. :)

    Kudos, Martin A-S! The interlock through the quad-stack is very cool. (But shouldn’t someone complain about the not-at-all-a-lexical-chunk THREE TENS?) Loved the CHE too, much more challenging than usual.

    Don’t miss the BEQ.com guest puzzle today by Michael & Angela (Rex & PG).

  19. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Dan, I meant to complain about THREE TENS and the whoa-never-heard-of-that CARPUTER last night, but I forgot.

    Sometimes Will likes to throw an ACPT curveball. Didn’t we have an easy puzzle from a puzzle #5 candidate last year? I could see #5 coming from Shenk, Nothnagel, Muller, or Vengsarkar/Venkatasubramaniam (I didn’t double-check that spelling).

  20. Daniel Myers says:

    FWIW, here’s a citation from the OED throwing light on the dove-urn link in columbarium:

    “The niches for these (urns), disposed round the walls and central supports, give the whole chamber the appearence of a dove-cote, whence its name of columbarium.”

    The easiest Friday I can remember in ages—Famous last words ere a grueling Saturday puzzle

  21. joon says:

    amy, GW is george washington university, alma mater of yinka dare and my dad. the missing U is okay—the school is called GW more often than it’s called GWU, i feel. sure, the official website is gwu.edu, but if you actually go there, you’ll see “GW” all over the page and “GWU” in the address bar only.

    i was faintly bugged by UNC not being a rebus square in UNCOM[MIT]ED. hard to know where to draw the line, since almost any two or three letters is some school somewhere, but that’s a very common abbreviation for a very famous school. i know it’s not in the “middle,” but it still bothered me more than, say, the unrebused OU in CO[USC]OUS.

    i’ll admit to being left cold by the “four game shows i’ve never watched and never will” pun theme. at least i’d heard of one of them.

  22. animalheart says:

    The instant it became clear to me that 13D was TEASE, I thought, “Oh lord, I’ve got to see what Amy says about that.”

  23. Steve Manion says:

    Three tens is an interesting hand. In draw, stud or hold’em, I would expect to be a net winner with that combination. In Omaha H/L, I would expect to be a net loser.

    The problem in Omaha H/L is that you usually have to have the nuts to win (no sexism here ;) ) and it is impossible to devise a hand in which either three 10′s or three jacks can be the nuts. Those hands can and do win, but they are never the best possible combination available.

    The only time I play either of those pairs is when I have a small stack left in a tournament and I am hoping for a huge pot to develop. When you have three 10s or three jacks, many other players usually have chances, so everyone stays in and if your three 10s fills up, the result is usually a huge pot.

    Steve

  24. Jen says:

    Late to the game because it took me forever to finish this one. Not to join the mob again the cluing for “tease,” but it’s also a bit heterosexist. Women do not get *all* men’s attention ;)

  25. Jen says:

    Though now that I look at the clue, it says nothing about women in particular. Nevermind. Amy’s original complaint still stands.

  26. Evad says:

    Thanks Jen, I went through the same rationalization myself. And Gary, I came here primarily for that reason as well, and Amy came through like a champ! Very proud to have her as a friend.

  27. Toby says:

    Will’s clue for TEASE is also annoying in the way it generalizes about men. The implication is that all (straight) men are attracted to that type of behavior. We aren’t.

  28. kratsman says:

    Agony Uncle??–Really?? Never heard of it and it only gets 41,000 hits on google. I can only assume it is some matriarchal term of derision. :) (my first ever emoticon)

  29. Tuning Spork says:

    re: ACPT
    Question for those who’ve attended.

    I would like to bring a friend along, but she will not be competing. Would she be bored silly while we’re all inside puzzling, or will there be other tag-alongs for her to yuk it up with in the corridors and lobbies? How much time for mingling is there between puzzles? Is it comparable to Lollapuzzula? Okay, that’s two questions.

    Third question: What’s the lunch situation like? Are there many dining choices in and around the Marriott, or would I be better off bagging a lunch like I wished I’d done (for not knowing the neighborhood) at Lollapuzzula? (Ended up having the worst. Philly cheesesteak. Ever. from a sidewalk vendor.)

  30. Howard B says:

    Interesting to see that posted. I do hope Ashish & Narayan are actually not puzzle #5, though I’d lay odds on that being a strong possibility. I really like their (and Ashish’s solo) puzzles very much, but I just don’t solve them for speed at all. It takes me forever to find the wavelength, just one of those things.

    Over time you find that some constructors do have a certain style that for some reason feels easier or more diffcult. I solve Merl Reagle pretty well, and Byron Walden and Brad Wilber often trip me up. Part of it is subject matter, part sense of humor, and the rest, who knows? I just solve ‘em and have fun. For me this holds true even when I’ve solved without reading the byline, so don’t think there’s a pre-knowledge bias going on.

  31. John E says:

    NYT was a very rich and plentiful puzzle – liked the fill and, what a challenge!

    I am a self-proclaimed Tom T Hall fan and have never heard the song “Mama Bake a Pie” – apparently the next line is “Daddy kill a chicken” which is all the entertainment I need for the weekend – I can always count on ol’ Tom for some humor.

    Never heard the term “carputer” but now I have.

    Nice work, Martin!

  32. max says:

    It used to be that constructors made puzzles for the user’s enjoyment. now it is mostly for their own, to see how programs can fill out the grid. do we really need: ANEAR, LOTI, CITER? CARPUTER? shameful!

    too bad, the nyt T, F, S used to be a fun part of the day.

  33. Tuning Spork says:

    Max, I feel your pain. But I think it’s obvious that CARPUTER was not a program-generated entry. :-P

    As for ANEAR, LOTI and CITER:
    Fitting legitimate words into a grid while simultaneously constrained by the locked-in theme answers is hard. HARD, I tells ya! It takes a lot of trial and error. Sometimes we end up with very few alternatives and ANEAR, ERA, OREO and AEGIS are, often, going to have to fill the bill — however ugly and/or common those words may be.

    We can’t all be a Crossword Jesus, y’know.

  34. Jamie says:

    I vote Amy on co-ed and tease. And good for her for yelling at the constructor or editors about these and other sexist words. Co-ed is the worst level of crosswordese – it’s boring, it makes no sense, and it’s decades out of date. It should not even approach a lazy editor’s-easy pass these days. Co-ed means just that; women and men sharing dorms or colleges. So stop already with the 50′s era definition of it as a young college-attending woman.

    Tease, clued as Shortz did, has no place in any good crossword when it can be clued so easily differently. In fact, clued as it was, it had no place in the NYT.

    Shortz, I love it when Amy takes it to you. You have no defense. Splutter away, bring it on, you cannot defend the clues she just hammered you on.

  35. Jamie says:

    @Max – agreed. This is the weirdest site in the world. People (I think they are people) get all excited when a boring panagram is posted. I’m sure it’s difficult to construct a panagram, and I don’t give a fuck. I also don’t care if you can create 15-letter stacks or all the weird grids in the world.

    Crosswords are entertainment, not a nerd test. F. Heaney’s xword on Bono’s new show was hilarious. It’s one of the two most enjoyable (three if you include BEQ’s Charlie Sheen one) this year. Yo for puzzles that entertain and don’t show off.

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