Sunday, 3/11/12

NYT 7:12 
LAT (untimed—Doug) 
Reagle 8:08 
Hex/Hook 9:48 (pannonica) 
WaPo untimed (Jeffrey – paper) 
CS 12:15 (Sam) 
Celebrity untimed 

Vic Fleming and John Dunn’s New York Times crossword, “100 Years Ago”

NY Times crossword solution, 3 11 12 "100 Years Ago" Fleming & Dunn

This centennial puzzle pays tribute to the TITANIC, which sailed and sank 100 years ago (within a few months of the birth of both of my grandmothers, coincidentally). Thematic content includes James Cameron’s GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS documentary, the book A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, victim JOHN JACOB ASTOR, “The UNSINKABLE / MOLLY BROWN” musical, the ENGLISH CHANNEL, and the MAIDEN / VOYAGE from SOUTHAMPTON to NEW YORK CITY. There are a few bonus answers throughout the grid, such as BERG and RAISE a shipwreck. I like the various symmetrical pairings within the theme–the origin and destination ports are paired, UNSINKABLE and MOLLY BROWN are paired, the nonfiction book and movie are paired (and I’ve never heard of the 1955 book, but it is perfectly paired with the16-letter movie), MAIDEN and VOYAGE are paired.

Now, the two longest non-theme answers are a little gruesome in the context of the theme: KEEPS IT UP (the ship went down) and TAXIDERMY.

Hey! Did anyone else have technical trouble getting into the NYT applet? In Windows/Chrome, I had an outdated Java error message and in Mac OS/Safari, the puzzle page was a blank white expanse.

Very smooth fill, except for the mystery person at 10d. [Actress Lee of “Funny Face”], RUTA?? I think I’d rather have a partial entry (PUT A crossing a PED, barring any duplications elsewhere in the grid) than RUTA.

Tribute puzzles that get overstuffed with thematic content run the risk of having compromised fill, but this one feels like it’s got plenty of theme without any crap. Four stars.

Updated Sunday morning:

Tony Orbach’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword, “Sunday Challenge” – Sam Donaldson’s review

CrosSynergy/Washington Post crossword solution, March 11

I felt this puzzle was talking to me throughout my solve. Mostly it was repeating itself: [Chucklehead]! NUMB-SKULL! LAME BRAIN! And it had a point–I should have sailed through this 70/30 freestyle much more quickly than I did.

Some of the answers came to me without any crosses. [Likely place to hit an eagle?] struck me as an obvious clue for a PAR FIVE hole on the golf course. I felt the same way about [Thread through many stories?] for STAIRCASE, [Places for future webcasters?] for EGGSACS (most internet personalities, you see, are either reptiles or arachnids), and [“Brush Your Breath” sloganeer, once] for DENTYNE. (Yes, I even remembered the “Y”).

But other clues that shouldn’t have troubled me so much proved to be positively vexing. The one I’m most ACNED, er, [Red in the face?] about is mis-reading [Kept people’s places?]. I must have read that clue a good half-dozen times, and not once did I see the “apostrophe-S” part at the end of “people.” So I kept wanting something synonymous with DELAYED that somehow created the kind of wordplay that would justify the “?” at the end. Hoo boy. If I had instead read the clue as [Places for kept people], I would have realized that the clue wanted LOVE NESTS. Good clue, bad solver.

Other highlights and items of note:

  • I thought [Get steamed?] was a fun clue for EVAPORATE. But my favorite was [Martial Olympian] for ARES. That sounds like the kind of clue that should have a question mark attached, but there’s no wordplay there at all–just a cool meshing of facts. A close second, for me, was [Finds hard to swallow?] for GAGS ON.
  • Because I can never seem to remember the motto of Kansas is [“Ad astra per] ASPERA“, I kept having to futz with the answer to [Touter]. I kept AD MAN for way too long until finally hitting on P.R. MAN. If the answer uses the masculine form, I think there should be some tip off to that in the clue. [He’s out to tout] would be a better clue, to me. I realize that “man” can be justified as gender-neutral in many (if not all) dictionaries, but I also think we (should) have evolved beyond that by now. Just my two cents–feel free to keep the change.
  • I felt so frustrated at one point that I would have paid Tony $10 to change the answer to [Like “Speed” or “Snatch,” say] to ACTION MOVIE or even ACTION CINEMA. I got the ACTION right away, but that last word just…wouldn’t…fall. Turns out those movies are ACTIONPACKED. Again: good clue, bad solver.
  • For this recovering lawyer, the answer to [Practice gp.?] just had to be the A.B.A. And what’s wrong with the crossing [Cherubic diety] being some little-known god named ABOR? Yes, he tends to suck the life out of parties, but Abor’s so cutely OBESE ([With a BMI of 30 or more]) that you forget all that. Despite my insistence that this has to be right, the puzzle software insists on the A.M.A. Whatever.
  • KEENED means [Wailed]? I’ll take your word for it.
  • I’m not sure if I love SURFER DUDE or think it’s a bit arbitrary. Maybe it’s the clue. [Pipeline guy] would be a great clue for SURFER, but I’m not sure how we get from there to SURFER DUDE, which, to this landlubber, reads more like jargon. Ah, what the heck. I’ll just relax and ride the wave–I like it!

I definitely felt the “challenge” in today’s Sunday Challenge, but I still enjoyed the puzzle a lot . How did you find it?

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon’s Sunday crossword, “Threepeats” — pannonica’s review

Hex/Hook • 3/11/12 • "Threepeats" • Cox, Rathvon • solution

I’m quite certain I’ve seen a theme with the same or a similar conceit within the last year (and it’s unimaginable that it hasn’t been done more than once, ere now). Alas, I haven’t the means to verify these notions. (PSA: Watch out, kids. If you do too many crosswords, you’re apt to include in your speech and writing words, phrases, and abbreviations such as ere now, alas, and PSA. And apt.)

To continue, words or phrases consisting of a single syllable repeated are tacked on to a base entry that contains the same syllable, either at the end or the beginning. The result is a double repeat, which some people like to call a threepeat.

  • 24a. [Discontent among primates?] LEMUR MURMUR.
  • 33a. [Nuts about stretching?] YOGA GAGA.
  • 43a. [Feathery high-stepping dance?] TOUCAN CAN-CAN.
  • 55a. [Farewell snack?] TA-TA TAPAS.
  • 63a. [Calming words to Mrs. Russell?] THERE, THERE, THERESA. Obviously the pièce de résistance among the themers, a 17-letter marvel with a five-letter repetition, given pride of place in the center of the grid.
  • 78a. [Kahlo’s abstract art?] FRIDA DADA.
  • 84a. [New Jersey town’s official cheer?] RAH RAH, RAHWAY, because YO HO HO, HO-HO-KUS would be overdoing things.
  • 94a. [Spot of land in the Thames?] ISIS ISLE. The Isis is (see what I did there?) “the name given to the part of the River Thames above Iffley Lock which flows through the city of Oxford. The name is especially used in the context of rowing at the University of Oxford.” (Wikipedia)
  • 107a. [Ticking off Tony, say?] SOPRANO NO-NO. Wondering if “Tony” is enough to point the solver to The Sopranos, or does including the colloquial “ticking off” give a nudge in the proper direction? It doesn’t matter, because crossings will get you there. Besides, it’s more specific than “feathery” to indicate TOUCAN, in 43a.
  • 4d. [Stanley Ann Dunham?] OBAMA MAMA. Michelle is one, also.
  • 42d. [Dorothy’s pet bag?] TOTO TOTE.
  • 52d. [“The Hulk” actor’s granny?] BANA NANA. Her last name, of course, is Fofanna. This one overlaps territory established by 4d (but not 78a).
  • 79d. [Tuneful Hawaiian laughter?] DON HO HO HO.

The distribution of entries is random, with respect to the echolalic [sic– see below] components appearing stem or stern. The themers themselves are of course, by cruciverbal convention, arranged in symmetrical pairs (except for the singleton in the middle). The spellings are unchanged, so there aren’t necessarily any homophonic elements, and in fact the emphasis is on spelling rather than pronunciation, hence THERE/THERESA, FRIDA/DADA, and ISIS/ISLE.

As a whole, there was nothing too difficult or obscure in the puzzle, which led to a smooth solving experience with a relatively quick solving time (for me). There were a few challenging entries, but always gettable via crossings. I’m referring to Gian Carlo MENOTTI, author of the one-act operetta Amahl and the Night Visitors, LONGHORN cheddar cheese, EDOM, philosopher SUSANNE Langer, and perhaps PTOMAINE. (Hmm, can one contract PTOMAINE from decaying ptarmigan?) NORMALCY and THEODORE are a nice couple of longer non-theme entries.

The lightness is also reflected in the tone of the clues, with a healthy dose of playfulness. Some examples:

  • 57a [Said “W-H-E-A-T”?] SPELT.
  • 75a [“Pick someone else!”] NOT ME.
  • 103a [Let loose a low] MOOED.
  • 83a [Eleven digits?] ONES. My favorite clue in the puzzle.

Fun, gentle puzzle, just thing to ease into a time-shifted Sunday morning.

Frank Longo’s Washington Post crossword, “Post Puzzler No. 101″—Jeffrey’s review

Washington Post crossword solution sunday Mar 11 2012

Theme: None. Another of those themeless thingies.

This one took me two sittings. Better luck on the bottom than the top. Just lots of clues that
I couldn’t figure out. Let’s go through them together. And by together, I mean I write stuff and you read it. All clear?

  • 1A. [Apportions] – PARCELS OUT. Does anyone say this? Can you parcel in?
  • 11A. [Cartoonist Addams] – CHAS. One of the few gimmies.
  • 15A. [Gathering Place locale] – ALOHA STATE. Mr. Google? The Gathering Place is another name for Oahu. Oh?Ah! Oo.
  • 16A. [Weekend anchor of NBC’s “Today” and “Nightly News”] – HOLT. Lester, it appears. Only Lester I know is Willie Tyler’s dummy.
  • 17A. [It may be required to initiate a service] – START-UP FEE
  • 20A. [Range top feature] – SNOW CAP. That would be a mountain range. I was thinking kitchen.
  • 27A. [Really puts out] – ANGERS. I was thinking…never mind what I was thinking.
  • 30A. [Actress Paige of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films] – TURCO. TURCO Paige? No, it is Paige TURCO.
  • 31A. [Computer technician’s track record?] – AUDIT TRAIL. Not sure why it is clued related to a computer technician. Accountant reference, please! Some love for the CPAs.
  • 35A. [Like Tommy’s pinball playing] – MEAN.
  • 36A. [Vietnam’s ___ Dinh Diem] – NGO. If you see “Vietnam”, always put TET or NGO. Just do it.
  • 42A. [Certain fruity Italian liqueur] – LIMONCELLO. I know nothing about but I’m guessing this is made out of lemon jello.
  • 44A. [She was executed at Sing Sing with her husband Julius] – ETHEL. Poor ETHEL Merman.
  • 46A. [What America runs on, according to an ad slogan] – DUNKIN. Sigh. Poor Americans. If you ran on Tim Horton’s you would still have a strong banking system like Canada. When I had –NK-N, I thought America ran on KEN KEN.
  • 55A. [Ones who might correct schedule conflicts, for short] – CPAS. Feel the love. Thanks!
  • 63A. [Possible ancient astronomical observatory] – STONEHENGE. Or maybe it was a donut shop.
  • 2D. [Illinois city] – ALTON. Amy, have you been there? Is it crossword-worthy?
  • 4D. [Emmanuelle of “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan”] – CHRIQUI. I knew the answer but couldn’t spell it. She is Jewish, born in Montreal, moved to Toronto, then out to British Columbia in the mid-1990’s for work. No wait, that’s me. No wait, that’s her. No wait, it’s both of us.
  • 13D. [Salvation invitation] – ALTAR CALL. That’s not a real phrase.
  • 21D. [Barrie setting: Abbr.] – ONT. Ontario. Home of many Tim Hortons.
  • 29D. [No wear] – KIMONO.  Japanese pun.
  • 31D. [Half of an old comedy duo] – ANNE MEARA. Ben Stiller’s mom. I believe she does crosswords. And she probably doesn’t like being called old in crosswords.
  • 32D. [No. 1 Usher hit of 2001] – U GOT IT BAD
  • 33D. [Reply from the unwilling] – DO I HAVE TO? Yes!
  • 58D. [___ tam (spicy Thai salad)] – SOM. A three-letter foreign fragment. Lovely.

***½ stars, after deduction for SOM.

Merl Reagle’s syndicated crossword, “Maybe Yes, Maybe No”

Merl Reagle crossword solution 3 11 12 "Maybe Yes, Maybe No"

I don’t quite get the point of this theme. A bunch of phrases that start with “yes” or “no,” with [YES ___] and [NO ___] clues (sometimes with a comma before the blank) for mostly partial answers? Why? Why these phrases? Why the title, when there’s no “maybe” about the answers going with “yes” or “no”? There’s also the imbalance of the commas, with most of the YES answers having a comma to separate the YES from the rest of the phrase, and most of the NO answers having that word as a negation.

The [YES ___] and [NO___] answers are:

  • 21a. Yes, YOU GUESSED IT. This phrase seems sort of random, not one of those “of course the word ‘yes’ must appear before this phrase; nobody ever says it without that ‘yes’.”
  • 23a. No REGRETS.
  • 30a. Yes, I BELIEVE I WILL. Like 21a, this feels loose to me.
  • 37a. No BIG DEAL.
  • 43a. Yes, ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE. The “yes” feels extraneous.
  • 56a. No TIME LEFT. Feels like the words are stranded in nowheresville.
  • 64a. Yes SIR, THAT’S MY BABY. This one has an obvious yes/no partner, “No sir, I don’t mean maybe,” but the other phrases don’t.
  • 75a. No TWO WAYS ABOUT IT.
  • 86a. Yes, WE’RE OPEN. Boring.
  • 107a. Yes, INDEEDY.
  • 109a. No MAN IS AN ISLAND.
  • 120a/123a. No PEEKING / AT THE ANSWERS. Nice finish.

Thanks to the inclusion of 13 Across theme entries, the grid is chopped up into a zillion sections with short words, the fill and clues skew older than usual, and there are some unfortunate entries. 102a: S. MAINE (SMAINE!), [Where Portland is, in gazetteer shorthand] is woeful. I know MEER as the Dutch word for “sea,” but not as 68d: [Only Major League pitcher to throw back-to-back no-hitters, Johnny Vander ___ (June 1938)]. Plenty of other entries triggered the ol’ Scowl-o-Meter, too. 2.5 stars. The only humor in the puzzle was in the final paired theme answers, and I expect to find a lot more humor in a Merl crossword than this one offered.

Elizabeth C. Gorski’s syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, “Le Puzzle” – Doug’s review

Elizabeth C. Gorski's syndicated LA Times solution 3/11/12, "Le Puzzle"

Hey, crossword fans. Doug here. Yikes, what time is it? I hate changing the clocks. I swear, I’m going to move to Arizona one of these years.

I got a nice surprise when I opened the puzzle last night. Liz Gorski! It’s been a while since we were treated to one of her puzzles in the L.A. Times. Today’s theme is simple and elegant, and I like the fact that each altered word ends with CK. Since we’re all an hour behind today, let’s get right to the theme answers:

  • 22a. [Cheap laugh?] – TWO BUCK CHUCKLE. I’m not much of a wine drinker, and I believe I learned the phrase “Two Buck Chuck” from crossword puzzles. It’s a nickname for Charles Shaw, an “extreme value” wine from California.
  • 32a. [Create belt hardware in record time?] – MAKE A FAST BUCKLE.
  • 50a. [Sweet-and-sour pita sandwich with a crunch?] – PICKLE POCKET. A pickle in a pita sounds good, but this one makes me think of a pickle in place of a handkerchief in some guy’s suit pocket. Even better.
  • 68a. [Pet’s protective-yet-amusing neckwear?] – FLEA AND TICKLE COLLAR.
  • 89a. [Old-fashioned restraint with a built-in boom box?] – RADIO SHACKLE.
  • 102a. [Plumber’s inquiry about a drippy faucet?] – TRICKLE QUESTION.
  • 119a. [Like an off-key football lineman?] – SHARP AS A TACKLE.

A few more that caught my eye:

  • 39a. [Letters under TUV, on many phones] – OPER. Do operators still exist? I’m tempted to dial zero right now to find out.
  • 85a. [DC Comics collectible] – ISS. If you have an extra copy of this Detective Comics issue in your attic, please mail it to me at Fiend Headquarters.
  • 93a. [Protein shake spoonful] – WHEAT GERM. – Is this stuff actually good for you? I sprinkled some on my bowl of Fruity Pebbles this morning.
  • 3d. [Van Morrison album or song] – MOONDANCE. Cool entry. I know the song well, but I had no idea it was Van Morrison. I absorbed a lot of ’70s music when I was a youngster, but I’m hazy on song titles and artists.
  • 34d. [Big cheese linked with Big Macs?] – KROC. Love this clue.
  • 45d. [Healing] – MEDICINAL. This one crosses three theme entries. I like to see that.
  • 77d. [Teen comic originally focused on social graces] – ETTA KETT. Comic strip from the ’20s. Wikipedia is acting up, but Toonopedia tells me the strip lasted until 1974. If you want to get good at solving crosswords, you’ve got to remember ETTA & KETT, two crossword stalwarts. Other favorites from the comics page include HONI, ALETA, SNERT, OTTO, and ODIE. Gasoline Alley‘s SKEEZIX is less popular.
  • 82d. [Duds for the downwardly mobile?] – SKI PARKAS. Clue of the day! I had the first three letters and imagined it would have something to do with SKID ROW. And don’t forget: Park Avenue leads to Skid Row.

Speaking of Park Avenue… is that near Brooklyn? Because that’s where I’ll be next weekend, at the big American Crossword Puzzle Shindig! I hope to see lots of you there. It’s going to rock.

Patrick Merrell’s Celebrity crossword, “Sunday Funday”

Celebrity crossword answers, 3 11 12 Merrell "Sunday Funday"

You like James Bond trivia? That’s today’s theme. Including the official long theme answers and the bonus entries, we have this collection of Bondiana:

  • 4a. BACH, [Barbara of the 1977 Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me”]
  • 8a. ALFA, [__ Romeo (Italian auto that Bond hijacks in “Octopussy”)]
  • 17a. DR. NO, [First James Bond movie]
  • 18a. DANIEL CRAIG, [Star of the upcoming Bond film “Skyfall”]
  • 29a. PIERCE BROSNAN, [“Remington Steele” star who played James Bond]
  • 39a. SEAN CONNERY, [First James Bond in the movies]. George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Timothy Dalton were the other three 007s.
  • 43a. JAWS, [Metal-mouthed Bond villain]. Played by Richard Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
  • 45a. DAY, [“Die Another  __” (2002 Bond film starring 29-Across)]
  • 7d. HATCHER, [Teri of the 1997 Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies”]
  • 24d. SIR, [Title Queen Elizabeth bestowed on 39-Across and his fellow Bond portrayer Roger Moore]
  • 31d. EJECTOR, [Type of quick-escape seat in Bond’s Aston Martin]

EMMA PEEL and UNDERDOG also fit in the spy and action hero categories, but they’re not Bondian.

I can’t believe how much thematic material Patrick packed into this puzzle without compromising the fill.

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23 Responses to Sunday, 3/11/12

  1. Martin says:

    Ruta is Latin for the herb rue. Maleska might have gone with “Type genus of kumquat’s family.” Those were the days.

  2. pannonica says:

    A Night to Remember (38d) was also a highly-regarded film from 1958, and much better than James Cameron’s massive 1997 bloatfest. Coincidentally, Lord’s book was adapted for the screen by the excellent suspense novelist ERIC Ambler (11d).
    p.s. For a stronger connection with 51a RAISE, there was Clive Cussler’s 1976 Raise the Titanic!, released as a regrettable film in 1980, with an all-star cast.

  3. Interesting that Cameron made two movies with THE ABYSS in the title.

  4. Amy Reynaldo says:

    Loved Tony’s CrosSynergy puzzle! Fun fill, fun clues. The upper left stymied me for a while thanks to a wrong guess on 4-Down, so I finished in 5:15 (longer than usual for a CS “Sunday Challenge” puzzle).

  5. Pete Rimkus says:

    I get an error trying to get today’s CrosSynergy puzzle on the Wash. Post site…and clicking on the the solution in this thread (while trying not to actually look at it) gives me an “Error 404 Call Dave!”….so Dave, if you’re out there, can you email me the puzzle?

  6. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Pete Rimkus: Clicking the solution grid isn’t supposed to bring you the puzzle file, just a larger view of the answer grid. Did you try the .jpz file posted in the forum ( Did you try the link on our Today’s Puzzles page? Another option, if you’ve got a Facebook account, is to solve it in PuzzleSocial’s FB app, Crosswords (this is where I did the CS today).

  7. ktd says:

    I visited Alton, IL a couple years ago. It’s got a lot of neat history and the landscape surrounding the Mississippi River there is quite beautiful.

  8. Pete Rimkus says:

    Thanks Amy…the link on the “Today’s Puzzle” page didn’t work (it’s the same link Will Johnston’s page goes to – that’s what I tried earlier) but I did manage to get the JPZ file from the forum…
    So I’m all set…thanks for the quick response.

  9. jane lewis says:

    going to the washington post crossword from today’s puzzles brings up only the puzzler, not the regular puzzle. i use a library computer and .jpz is blocked. maybe i can get it tomorrow.

  10. klew archer says:

    Loved Tony O’s CS puzzle as well.

    Never knew RUTA Lee. Had some confusion from Brazilian singer RITA Lee and Polish-British actress RULA Lenska.

    Forgot about “Introducing … The Beatles.” Took me a while to remember UK “With The Beatles” is mostly equivalent to US “Meet The Beatles” and “Introducing” was US version of the first UK album “Please Please Me” which one was on Vee-Jay Records because Capitol didn’t want them at first, although it later appeared as “The Early Beatles.”

    Post Puzzler was brutal.

  11. Nina says:

    Loved the NYT and LAT puzzles, but now I want to do Tony Orbach’s. I get a “cannot read file” message at Amy’s link. Hope someone can help –
    Thanks – Nina

  12. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Nina: See comment above addressed to Pete Rimkus.

  13. janie says:

    it was a while ago, pannonica, but i’m pretty sure matt gaffney had a 15×15 threepeat puzzle. maybe 4 years ago or so. one of those themes that always seems to delight!


  14. Jeffrey says:

    Doug, I wish you had mentioned earlier that you wanted Detective Comics #27. I sold it last week for 20 cents, double cover price! Good deal, huh?

  15. Sam Donaldson says:

    Yes, the “threepeats” theme has been done before. Here’s an old Sun puzzle to which I’m partial.

  16. pannonica says:

    Doug & Jeffrey: Do you two have this bit of recent news in your minds?

    Sam: I kind of expected to see your byline there. Nice theme entries. Wow, so that’s what the dinky “old blog” looked like!

  17. Doug P says:

    @pannonica – Yes, I saw that story. Amazing find! I hope my mint copy of Muppet Babies #1 will fetch a similar price someday.

  18. janie says:

    yes, threepeats again. and now i’m thinkin’ maybe not matt, but ben tausig……


  19. Zulema says:

    Limoncello was served in two different Italian restaurants I was in, in December, as an on-the-house after-dinner drink, and it is definitely not to everyone’s taste, at least at first. It has a peculiar flavor, not lemony and not sweet enough, but slighty chemical (Hope I don’t get hit over the head for that critique).

  20. Howard B says:

    Jeffrey, I will say this – Tim Horton’s does do wonders for the caffeine addiction. At least the New York brand. However, to analogize:
    If New York’s Tim Horton’s:Canada’s :: U.S. Molson beer : Canada’s,
    I have a feeling I would never sleep if I were to order coffee north of the border.

    I won’t even get into TH’s Timbits vs. Dunkin’s Munchkins.

  21. maikong says:

    Dang! That was a killer puzzle Tony Orbach produced. Sam asked how others found it and I must say it proved to be an herculean task solving it. Of course it took me all day to do it and that included a tad of cheating.

  22. Hi Amy, check out Crossword Rush on facebook. They are high quality, cleverly themed puzzles on the easy side for speed. More difficult clues is an option for the future. But the themes are some of the best around! Here is the direct link to the fb fanpage:

    here, directly to the fb app:

  23. HMJ says:

    Reagle’s puzzle is lacking in logic.

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