Sunday, February 10, 2013

LAT 9:20 
Reagle 9:02 
NYT 7:52 
Hex/Hook 9:34 (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (Doug) 
CS 10:48 (Sam) 

Patrick Berry’s New York Times crossword, “I Heard You the First Time”

NY Times crossword answers, “I Heard You the First Time” 2 10 13

The concept behind this theme is quite simple: Seven phrases that repeat a key descriptor for emphasis are bundled together.

  • 22a. [Somewhat redundant 1965 country song?], GREEN, GREEN GRASS OF HOME. Faintly familiar.
  • 30a. [Somewhat redundant Milton Bradley game?], HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS. They are famished for marbles.
  • 49a. [Somewhat redundant size?], EXTRA EXTRA LARGE. Not really redundant, as each extra EXTRA further jacks up the largeness.
  • 64a. [Somewhat redundant 1960s spy series?], THE WILD, WILD WEST.
  • 83a. [Somewhat redundant literary genre?], SHORT SHORT STORY. For those with a short, short attention span.
  • 100a. [Somewhat redundant theater production?], OFF-OFF-BROADWAY SHOW. I have no idea what the distinction between off-Broadway and off-off is. Is off-Broadway still within Manhattan and off-off is in the other boroughs or in New Jersey, or what?
  • 112a. [Extremely redundant 1963 caper film?], IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. Isn’t there another ’60s movie that repeats a word six times? Or am I thinking of With Six, You Get Eggroll? Why did I think it was It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World?

Dumb 85d: [1950s TV star Duncan]. Didn’t even know how to spell Reynaldo properly, so he went with RENALDO.

79d. [Nabisco treats sold only seasonally] clues MALLOMARS. I was checking how See’s Candies styles its name (like that) and noticed some caramel/marshmallow/chocolate treats on the website. My favorite Fannie May’s candy is the Carmarsh, which is those ingredients (and the chocolate is dark). Do you know that I couldn’t find a single marshmallow/caramel/chocolate candy at Walgreens (no apostrophe)? Even in the Valentine’s Day candy aisle. I had to make do with a $100,000 bar (I am old school and don’t call it “100 Grand”) with undark chocolate and no marshmallow. Sigh. (The Wikipedia article on Mallomar-like treats tells me 70% of the country’s Mallomars are sold in the NYC area, which explains why I’ve never had one. Also? A number of European versions have had appallingly racist names!)

You may have guessed that I don’t feel inspired to say much about this puzzle. It’s fine. It’s just a little on the dull side. 3.5 stars.

By the way, it’s not too late to get in on Patrick Berry’s Kickstarter venture. A dozen new cryptics, eight of them variety cryptics, for a $15 pledge? Better than a public-radio tote bag. For $20, he’ll also throw in three of his always-amazing non-cryptic variety crosswords.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Cross Your Heart”

Merl Reagle crossword answers, 2 10 13 “Cross Your Heart”

I know what you were thinking. You read the title of this puzzle and you said to yourself, “At last! There is finally a crossword dedicated to that classic Playtex bra.” Alas, Cross Your Heart bra fans must continue their long vigil. Today is not their day.

Merl’s celebrating Valentine’s Day (which is next Thursday) with a two-pronged approach: 15 (unless I miscounted) rebus squares containing the letters LOVE plus assorted shorter, rebus-free answers with romantical clues (e.g., 39a. [Conniff of "Somewhere, My Love" fame], RAY). There may well be 40 thematic answers in this puzzle. Is that nuts or what? There are so many, in fact, that I’m skipping a rundown of the theme answers here.

Highlights: CAN’T BUY ME {LOVE}, {LOVE} HANDLES, {LOVE} POTION, THE {LOVE} BOAT, DANNY G{LOVE}R and LYLE {LOVE}TT with hidden LOVEs, DR. STRANGE{LOVE}, {LOVE} BEADS, {LOVE} ME DO, {LOVE}RBOY, H.P. {LOVE}CRAFT,  and the overall Beatles-rich vibe.

I like that swath of interlocked 5-letter answers running diagonally through the grid.

You might think that a puzzle with 30 paired rebus answers would have dreadful surrounding fill, but the crosswordese ERNES and TARNS aren’t joined by a slew of junk.

I wasn’t wild about the clue for 1a: RAFT. [Cinema George]?? Cinema George is George Clooney! George RAFT died 32 years ago. Wikipedia tells me his movie career peaked in 1940-41, which is … before my mother was born. Merl does a terrific job at catering to the  solvers who are 75 and up, because they are the demographic group that’s still getting the daily newspaper delivered. It’s good business until those people die off, at which point Merl will be free to clue RAFT as a common noun. I can wait. (Mind you, I wish those Crossword Fiend readers who are 75 and up many, many more happy years of solving!)

Four stars. I enjoyed the puzzle, and the only disappointment was not being able to get a cute heart into each rebus square.

Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post crossword, “The Post Puzzler No. 149″ – Doug’s review

Karen M. Tracey’s Washington Post solution 2/10/13, “The Post Puzzler No. 149″

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here with a brand spanking new Post Puzzler.

  • 39a. ["The Crossword Obsession: The History and Lore of the World's Most Popular Pastime" author Coral] - AMENDE. If you’re obsessed with crosswords (and why wouldn’t you be?), you’d love this book. I wish I had my copy handy… Anyway, most of the book consists of questions and answers with crossword constructors and super-solvers. It’s basically a bunch of cruciverbial interviews, broken up into chapters. I picked up a copy when I was just getting started in construction and found it fascinating. Amazon has 66 copies available for 1 cent, so yeah, you should buy one.
  • 53a. [Noted wearer of a hoodie and sunglasses] – UNABOMBER. I’ve seen the police sketch of the Unabomber in hoodie and sunglasses, but did he truly dress like that? I guess he must have at least once.
  • 23a. [Aishwarya of Bollywood] – RAI. A while back I had to write a clue for RAI Aishwarya, and I discovered that she’s often billed as “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.” She’s certainly beautiful, but I can’t say definitively that she’s the most beautiful. I’d be happy to study the matter further. And to do a thorough job, I’d need to conduct interviews with all the candidates. Where do I apply for a grant?
  • 56a. [They butter no parsnips, according to a saying] – FINE WORDS. Are you familiar with this saying? It sounds vaguely familiar to me. And how about the guy who said this: “Lazing about the other day, I said, this will butter no parsnips. But I have no idea of its derivation. Please help.” Believe it or not, you can find the answer at World Wide Words.
  • 58a. [Diner owner in the comic strip "Non Sequitur" and wife in the comic strip "Andy Capp"] – FLOS. I haven’t looked at a physical comics page in a while. Does Andy Capp still blight the newspapers of America with its presence? I could never figure that strip out when I was a kid. I got more laughs from Apartment 3-G. And in its early days, one of the recurring themes was Andy beating his wife Flo. Hilarious.
  • 2d. ["___ le roi!"] – À BAS. Not VIVE? D’oh! Looks like this version means “Down with the roi!”
  • 32d. [Name in tragic 1997 news] – DODI. Dodi Fayed, who was in the car with Princess Diana when she died.
  • 9d. [Episode-ending phrase] – TUNE IN TOMORROW. I like the retro flair of this answer. I remember when you had to watch your favorite TV show when it was actually on TV, and if you missed it…too bad! You had to wait for the reruns during the summer.

More stuff I liked: VACANT LOT, JUICE NEWTON, ATHENS GEORGIA, and BOBTAIL NAG.

Updated Sunday morning:

Martin Ashwood-Smith’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge”- Sam Donaldson’s review

CS solution, February 10

One of my “white whales” in crossword construction is to come up with triple-15s all around the perimeter of the grid. Today’s grid from Martin Ashwood-Smith comes the closest of any grid I can recall seeing. Instead of having triple 15s on every side, we get four stacks of 11/13/15. For additional panache we get crossing sixes and sevens throughout the middle. Yes, the grid contains a lot of three-letter answers, but I’m not complaining, especially since those shorties were essential to my cracking the longer entries. I’ll admit that some of the threes and fours along the edges are unsightly (I IS, CNS, EAT A, ANTH, OHNE, OTE, A TEE, et alia), but they’re in the service of something really ambitious that I admire, so I can easily accept them.

The troublesome side for me, solving-wise, was the far east. For instance, I had no idea about [Godwin James's creator]. Every letter in EDGAR LEE MASTERS was a fight for me. I got the first word in SENATE ROSTERS easily enough from the clue, [Some governing groups], but the second word remained in hiding much longer, probably because “senate rosters” to me feels like an arranged marriage of adjective and noun, like WHITE DOG, SHORT BOOK, and MEETING AGENDA. (Forced co-occupancy, awkwardness, and little spark–”arranged marriage” is the perfect simile.) And while I figured out the GROUSES easily enough, things known as SAND GROUSES was new to me. Throw in some smaller unknowns for me (NANA as a [Darling dog], LTD as the [Old Ford model], and LSTS as the [D-Day boats] that I seem to forget within minutes every time I see them in a crossword) and that made for one tough area of the grid. I did, however, like MOO as the answer to [Jersey greeting?] (though I also liked my original answer, BOO).

As impressive as the outer rings really are, to me the highlight was the big donut in the middle.  Mmm, donut. Wait, where was I? Oh, right–the middle section. We’ve got four 7s crossing six 6s and a couple more 7s that extend out into the perimeter, and virtually all of them are lovely. (I’VE is the weakest of the group, and I don’t think of it as per se weak.) VERBOSE, JEEVES, OFFERS, REFEREE, TEA SET, KEENED, and more–that’s just nice. So for me, the puzzle is admirable both for its outer rings and for the inner donut. Well done.

Favorite entry = SEPTIC TANKS, the [Sewage disposal units]. Favorite clue = [Big heart?] for ACE (which, incidentally, was in yesterday’s CS puzzle too).

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s CRooked Sunday crossword, “Rye Humor” — pannonica’s review

CRooked • 2/10/12 • “Rye Humor” • Cox, Rathvon • Hex/Hook • BG • solution

As you might guess from the title, the theme here consists of bread-related puns.

  • 24a. [Romance at the bakery?] LOAF AT FIRST SLICE. (love, slice)
  • 41a. [Browning options?] TOASTER’S CHOICE. (Taster’s, arguably roaster’s (for coffee)
  • 63a. [Small difference in spreads?] NARROW MARGARINE. (margin)
  • 86a. [Bread makings that keep coming around?] REVOLVING DOUGH(door)
  • 107a. [Baker's festive greeting?] HAPPY CHALLAH-DAYS. (holidays)
  • 4d. [Biscuits going downhill?] ROLLING SCONES. (Stones)
  • 57d. ["t-a-e-h-W"?] SPELT BACKWARD. (spelled, or spelt if you’re Commonwealthian)

 *Deep breath* Okay, I did not care much for this puzzle. As the central down answer (60d) states, ["We are not ___"] AMUSED. Why? All right, let’s break it down.

Inconsistency:

  • The first themer, 24-across, contains a a double pun. It’s the only one to do so. Also, the resulting phrase makes no independent sense; you have to retain the original phrase for comprehension.
  • Same nonsensical situation for 63a NARROW MARGARINE, clued as [Small difference in spreads?]. Why not describe it as “small-gauge spread” or some such? If all of the clues were played with the simultaneous connotation of the old and new versions, that would be fine, but these are the only two.
  • Unsatisfactorily descriptive clue for REVOLVING DOUGH; why not simply describe it as being in a stand mixer, where it is most unambiguously revolving?
  • CHALLAH-DAYS is the only themer where the pun is part of a longer word.
  • Finally, the theme is too noncohesive (we bakers call this slack dough, which is what you want when making ciabatta). It seems merely to be things kind of associated with bread. SPELT is a kind of wheat, MARGARINE is something put on bread, a TOASTER is an appliance used to cook already-baked bread, CHALLAH and SCONES are varieties of bread, LOAF and SLICE are units of bread.I feel it would have been much better if it consisted of types of bread, components of the breadmaking process, foodstuffs or dishes conspicuously made with bread, et cetera. And a more consistent style/mechanism for creating the puns.

You know what happens when you aren’t sufficiently rigorous in making bread? For instance, if you mismeasure ingredients, or let the biga rise in a place with uneven heat, or are insufficiently attentive while forming a loaf? You get an misshapen, lopsided breadthing. It may still taste all right (unless the rise(s) were not monitored well, in which case there might not be enough pneumaticization and the crumb will suffer). It speaks volumes that when I did various iterations of an image search for an appropriate photograph, I couldn’t find a really good one; such failures are rather embarrassing!

Now, I’m not saying that this puzzle is an abject failure. It’s no disaster, but it simply wasn’t a happy solve. As I’ve already made clear, I felt the theme was for more than one reason unsatisfactory. Further, the ballast fill is unexceptional; it felt routine, and a bit of a slog to complete all the squares. Even the clues felt flat, most of them anyway.

Nevertheless, I feel obligated to sprinkle a few caraway seeds of praise, so:

  • The center-right section where RAVI Shankar and RAGAS are linked with the echoing Toyota RAV 4.
  • The playful [Toe the line?] ROPEWALK and [Army creature?] OCTOPUS (it has eight of ‘em). These were okay, but not heartily entertaining. My judgment may of course be colored by the overall sour experience, so take this with a measure of salt. (105a, 87d)
  • Ditto with the long non-theme fill. I think SNAP PEAS, SURE SHOT, ELLIPSES, and SOLDIERS are rather blah, but how impartial am I at this point? ZEROED IN and PAST LIFE were more encouraging, but far from enough to rescue the puzzle.

Below-average offering.

John Lampkin’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Floridation”

LA Times crossword solution, 2 10 13 “Floridation”

I like the wordplay in the title. Instead of fluoridation, we have “Floridation,” and Florida’s postal abbreviation of FL is appended to the beginning of a word in each theme answer:

  • 24a. [Jaw-dropping reaction to butterflies?], FLUTTER AMAZEMENT. I can’t believe John Lampkin didn’t send me one of his beautiful butterfly pix. He’s a terrific nature photographer.
  • 43a. [Salutation to an out-of-shape friend?], DEAR FLABBY. Ha! If you write to your friend that way, that friend should dump you.
  • 52a. [Outrageous ice cream concoctions?], WILD FLOATS.
  • 65a. [Masters of the felt-tipped pen?], FLAIR ACES. Ah, yes. I loved Flair felt-tip pens in my youth. Couldn’t have enough colors, man.
  • 82a. [Bulletproof linen fiber?], BATTLE FLAX.
  • 89a. [Cowering caterpillar?], FLINCHWORM.
  • 112a. [Cuban tortilla king?], FLOUR MAN IN HAVANA. I don’t recall what “Our Man in Havana” is.
  • 3d. [Botany major's hurdles?], FLORAL EXAMS.
  • 68d. [Turkeys no one knows about?], COVERT FLOPS. My favorite of the theme answers.

Moving past the theme, let’s look at 10 more things:

  • 48d. [Folk tale rubber?], ALADDIN. He rubbed a magic lamp and the genie came out. I know what you thought. You thought of the Trojan horse and Trojan condoms.
  • 34a. [Gets out of shape?], MELTS. Like a surreal Dali clock.
  • 37a. [Backwash creators], OARS. So backwash is a boating term, and not just a word for the slop in your beer bottle that’s been diluted with your saliva? Live and learn.
  • 57a. [Research foundation, often], GRANTEE. I had GRANTOR at first. So this would be a foundation that’s doing the research rather than making donations for research, then?
  • 81a. [Ex halved], VEE. Because the Roman numeral V/5 is half of X/10? No. No, no, no. “Vee” and “ex” are not numbers. Those are spelled-out letters, and just because the Romans used letters to stand for numbers, it doesn’t mean we can say that “ex” and “vee” are numbers. Who’s with me?
  • 100a. [Hoi polloi], RIFFRAFF. Love the word RIFFRAFF.
  • 27d. [Lang. of Israel], HEBR. I checked two dictionaries and both give Heb. as the only abbreviation for Hebrew.
  • 41d. [Structural opening?], INFRA. A little odd, as infrastructure is a far more common word than infrastructural.
  • 55d. [Animal named from a Greek word meaning "tribe of hairy women"], GORILLA. That’s awesome.
  • 89d. [Parts of darts], FLIGHTS. I don’t understand the connection between clue and answer. Researching … the tail of a dart, the feathers, can be called a flight. I never knew that.

3.5 stars.

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27 Responses to Sunday, February 10, 2013

  1. Andy says:

    As usual, I really liked the Berry puzzle. My one gripe was a sort-of Natick at 91a/85d (R?NALDO/H?H). If you’ve never heard of Duncan Renaldo, this could definitely end up being a guessing game (“If it were RONALDO there’d be an easier clue [and HOH isn't exactly a preferred way to transcribe a short laugh], and RANALDO doesn’t seem like a name people have, so…”).

    There wasn’t really better fill, though: one option would have been HOH/RONALDO, cluing them as water (or Head of Household) and the soccer player respectively. Not a significant improvement because HOH is a rare entry. The other is to replace RENALDO with the pejorative RETARDS, cluing it as something like [Slows down] or [Encumbers]. That solves the ambiguity/obscurity problems, but creates different problems altogether (and gives the foreign RIEN off the second R).

    But much ado about nothing. I’m guessing most solvers found the crossing less objectionable than I did.

    • Barry W says:

      I believe the difference between Off and Off off Broadway has to do with the number of seats in the theater more than location.

  2. Huda says:

    NYT: I really enjoyed the theme. It made the entire solve a lot easier, which is great for a Sunday as it usually feels too plodding to me (I guess if I could finish it in less than 8 minutes, it wouldn’t be an issue. As it is this one took about 25 minutes). Mostly, I liked the fact that the answers were real titles, and how that MAD, MAD…movie was clued.

    I had a couple of mini-naticks as described by Andy. But the fill was generally so smooth, I think it’s almost deceiving. Patrick Berry makes it look easy. SHEESH…

  3. Ethan says:

    The NYT theme was kind of inconsistent for me. For some theme entries the repetition was really a redundancy, such as HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS, where the second Hungry is just there to make the name catchier, but for EXTRA EXTRA LARGE, OFF OFF BROADWAY, and SHORT SHORT STORY, the repetition does serve a semantic purpose. An XXL T-shirt is bigger than an XL T-shirt, right?

    • Huda says:

      Ethan, I agree. That thought flickered through my mind, that in the case of EXTRA EXTRA LARGE, that additional extra was not just for emphasis, it actually is a different size. And it is the case for the other examples you cited.

      The way I think about it, the theme per se is consistent in that it involves repetition of the qualifiers. I think it’s the title that’s misleading, because it makes one think that the repetition is not informative.

      But it’s not easy to come up with a good title. Is there not a competition here along these lines?

  4. HH says:

    “I know what you were thinking. You read the title of this puzzle and you said to yourself, ‘At last! There is finally a crossword dedicated to that classic Playtex bra.’”

    Hmmm … Thanks for the idea.

  5. Zulema says:

    Barry W is correct. It’s the number of seats, but I don’t know how many are required for the top two categories. I was very surprised when I learned this.

  6. ArtLvr says:

    Nana was the Darling family’s dog in “Peter Pan”… And thanks for the link to “Fair/fine words butter no parsnips”!

  7. Lois says:

    Re Reagle and movie George: I’ve heard that there do exist young lovers of old movies, although I’m not one of them. That is, I do love those movies, but am not young. Those movies are still easily available for viewing today, even more so than when I was young, so naturally some young people find them. When I was young, Million Dollar Movies were only available at certain times of the day, and now we have TCM, long may it reign, 24 hours a day. George Raft was before my time, but he’s very famous to me. Maybe there are some young tykes who have heard of him as well. If not, the crosswords make the name more familiar, so that’s a value in itself. Amy did not criticize Merl’s use of old songs for the theme, at least. Thank you, Amy, for appreciating the many theme answers and the rest of the puzzle.

    OK, I’m the same age as Merl Reagle, and this is a rant. I know that Amy is as enthusiastic about introducing young people to crosswords as I am about introducing them to movies of every era, but especially to those from before my childhood. My 6-year-old great-niece is pretty enthusiastic about Harold Lloyd, and my great-nephews, aged 13 and 11, liked Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. These experiments have only worked till now at the movies, not on TV, and have been limited by the kids’ schedules. The Film Forum in New York City has started a wonderful movie series for children on Sunday mornings that is wildly popular. Granted, no George Raft movies have been scheduled so far.

  8. john farmer says:

    Well said, Lois. I wasn’t around when Raft was in his heyday but I would think that anyone would at least know him from “Some Like It Hot” (and whatever your age, there’s no reason not to know SLIH). In any case, he was a big star and I don’t understand the beef that he’s too old for crosswords (or that there’s only one George in movies). For one thing, many of the people who remember those days are still doing puzzles, and as you point out, lots of people are interested in what was going on culturally even before their time. I suppose I had little interest when I was growing up — even Elvis seemed old to me — but I did grow and got to realize there was lots of great movies, music, etc., around than just the stuff aimed at my generation. I got curious about it and I’m glad I did. I’m curious about stuff happening today too. I’m not sure why it has to be one or the other. In more general terms, I’m not sure how to think about culture without knowing something about what came before it. For context, if nothing else, but also for the sheer enjoyment of lots of great art and entertainment. So what if it happened back then and not now.

    I understand the desire to be relevant, and crosswords, like anything in the culture, evolve over time. The fact is, today there are probably more crosswords targeted specifically for a younger audience than puzzles aimed at any other demographic, so complaints about occasional “old” pop cultural references seem to me to be getting old.

    • pannonica says:

      Poor George CUKOR!

      • john farmer says:

        I knew there must have been another George!

        For those curious about George(s): Méliès, Stevens, Segal, Lazenby, Peppard, Sanders, Takei, Chakiris. Even some guy named Lucas. There may have been one or two others.

      • klew archer says:

        While we are at it, George O’Brien, who appeared in many John Ford pictures but is most famous for starring in F.W. Murnau’s “Sunrise.”

    • klew archer says:

      Yes, that is how I first knew who George Raft was, from “Some Like It Hot,” although later saw his famous performance in “Scarface,” along with the coin tossing bit that was often parodied later, especially in “Singin’ In The Rain” and “Some Like It Hot.”

      Ha, pannonica.

    • john farmer says:

      “Scarface.” Indeed. Certainly in the canon.

  9. Mona Evans says:

    Hi, Amy,

    Really enjoyed the Reagle puzzle today. and solved it much more quickly than some of his others. I am much younger than 75 and I get the L.A. Times daily; always look forward to the crossword.

  10. jefe says:

    The Post Puzzler was, to me, a whole bunch of unknowns crossing either other unknowns, or things I had heard of but with unhelpful clues. (Oh wow, I just now realized that [Evening out] was the act of making something even, not a nighttime event.) Never heard of Juice Newton (misspelling Anjelica with a G didn’t help), Bobtail Nag, the Fine Words phrase, Gitano, Rai. Heard of Naan, but not Paratha. Had DBL for RBI since a potato Dicer sounded more plausible than a Ricer.

    • Zulema says:

      This was one my fastest (not that speed means anything to me, but 3 or 4 days means too difficult) and most enjoyable Post Puzzlers. You should try Parathas, they are delicious and always whole grain. I thought younger non-cooks might find RICER strange. It’s a Potato masher. I think about a week or so ago, or two, I posted that Patrick Berry’s and Karen’s are my favorite WaPos. Loved this one. Forgot to post this yesterday.

  11. Jesse Kona says:

    LA Times 81a – Agreed that the roman numeral arithmetic is weak, but there is a visual interpretation as well. The top half of an X looks like a V.

  12. Joan macon says:

    Well, I need to weigh in on the Reagle also; Lois and John, you have it right, and there’s always George Burns. I admit to being one of those old ladies who still reads the newspaper and does the puzzles by hand (but in ink!) and I make no apologies. I learn a lot this way.

  13. TammyB says:

    Lois, John, Joan…you beat me to it. I’m only in my mid 50′s and I love Merl Reagle precisely because he does draw on such a wide range of cultural references.

    Then again, I suspect that “mid 50′s” is ancient.

  14. Joe says:

    Off-Off Broadway is not a borough-based distinction. It originally meant outside the theater district (aka the “Broadway box” roughly between 42nd and 57th Streets and 6th & 8th Avenues, and diagonally split by Broadway). Now it means any theater with between 100-499 seats. “Off-Off” theaters have capacities of less than 100 seats. (There’s a further distinction based on the contract type of the actors but I don’t know the details.)

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