SUNDAY, Dec. 2, 2007 - Seth A. Abel

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Car Talk" - every theme answer is a familiar phrase clued as if it had something to do with a make of car

I Smoked this puzzle. My best Sunday time ever: 12:06. I had an in-the-zone feeling that I've never had before - at least not in such a sustained way. It was a pretty cool feeling, I have to say. I had to allow some pretty iffy-sounding stuff to stay in place and just trust my instincts. It all worked out. Hallelujah. After yesterday's beat-down, this experience felt positively uplifting.

Theme answers:

  • 23A: Ford purchased online? (Internet Explorer)
  • 17D: Reliable Suzuki? (trusty Sidekick)
  • 38A: Honda owned by one of the Simpsons? (Homer's Odyssey) - mmm, sweet ...
  • 58A: City dweller's Acura? (urban Legend)
  • 80A: Genuine Isuzu? (real Trooper) - would really have liked a STORM TROOPER answer, but this'll have to do...
  • 96A: Tiny Volkswagen? (miniature Golf) - I have a highly irrational and childlike love of this "sport"
  • 51D: Half-assembled Mitsubishi? (partial Eclipse)
  • 113A: One of the first Buicks to roll off the line? (twentieth Century) - well, this is weird. It occurs to me that this is the first theme answer I got, and yet I started at the top of the puzzle and worked down. Not sure how that's possible. I must have got a theme answer or two without thinking about the rationale.

There was not a lot to test the brain today, though there were a handful of dicey-looking answers. We'll start with SHTETLS (65A: Old Jewish villages), which I've never seen before - but historian wife knew the word as soon as I asked her about it. Her exact words: "I think there were pogroms in some shtetls." Unfortunate association. Luckily, there were other happier Jewish references, like 1D: He ascended to heaven in a whirlwind, in II Kings (Elijah) and 101A: Hanukkah treats (latkes). Speaking of the Jewish "race or culture," what the hell is up with ETHNOS (45A: Group of the same race or culture)? "ETHOS" I know, and "ETHIC." But I've never heard of an "ETHNOS." A definite brow-KNITter (109D: Furrow). Here's another: THRO (87D: Poetic preposition). I have occasion to read a lot of poetry, and this is not a "word" I see often. Maybe occasionally. I wanted THRU, but that's more street sign than poetry, really. Then there's TADS (72D: Squirts). If you tell me you put anything but TOTS in there at first, I am calling you a liar. I guess if you got AIDA before you looked at the clue, you might not have gone with TOTS, but if you had the T and / or S, then you did. I'm tellin' you.

It's the first horribly snowy day of the season here in far upstate NY, and we've got to get to the store before the freezing rain comes, so this will be brief-ish.

Miscellaneous:

  • 7A: It's beyond repair (total loss) - loved it, especially for its double-L's and S's.
  • 25A: It's measured in degrees (burn) - even after getting this I had to think for a sec to understand it.
  • 27A: Word with night or right (all) - "right all?" Oh, ALL right, ALL night, gotcha.
  • 33A: It's needed to find the right key (ear) - clever
  • 47A: Parts of the lunar landscape (mesas) - love that this intersects the puzzle's other spacey clue, 16D: Space clouds (nebulae)
  • 62A: Kind of kick (on-side) - very good; took a few crosses to uncover.
  • 77A: It's set partly at the Temple of Vulcan ("Aida") - I love how this is clued to make you think the answer might have something to do with "Star Trek."
  • 83A: Like a pop fly (arced) - again, nice, and unexpected
  • 120A: 1983 Stephen King thriller ("Christine") - killer car; see also "Cujo" - killer St. Bernard - and "Carrie" - killer prom queen.
  • 122A: What a rake may do (leer) - he sure may - nice misdirection with "rake"
  • 12D: Nuevo _____, Mexican state (Leon) - no idea, never saw the clue.
  • 24D: Big name in stationery (Eaton) - one of the commenters claimed this answer is common, but I don't remember ever seeing it, and it took me a few crosses to come up with it.
  • 39D: Emmy winner for "Roots" (Ed Asner) - unexpected - everyone I associate with that mini-series is black.
  • 62D: Either sister starring in 2004's "New York Minute" (Olsen) - sticking with highbrow entertainment for the moment ... when I first read the clue, I thought the answer would be DUFF ... which means I know Way too much about teen girl culture.
  • 68D: Genoa's Palazzo San _____ (Giorgio) - same as LEON, above, i.e., no clue
  • 99D: Performance artist Anderson (Laurie) - is she still working? I remember her spiky hair and haunting visage from the 80's.

Good day to you people,

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

51 comments:

PuzzleGirl 10:57 PM  

As I mentioned in yesterday's comments, I'm a little out of practice. So this puzzle was awesome for me. I, too, found the experience uplifting (I finished in 35 minutes flat). Great theme answers, lots of great fill. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had to erase TOTS and replace with TADS. I also had SEALS (for SEERS), which I erased to add EZRA, which was also wrong. Figured it out eventually.

For some reason 64D STARING contest made me laugh out loud.

Back in 1983, when CHRISTINE came out, I worked at the B. Dalton bookstore on Fifth Ave. in New York. Stephen King would occasionally sneak into the store and sign his books without telling anyone. Strange man.

I always want "Big name in stationary" to be CRANE. And it's always EATON.

Not being a religious person, I knew Rachel's older sister (LEAH) from Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale." Haven't thought about that book in a while. Probably worth a re-read.

profphil 11:10 PM  

Rex,

You spoiled my high as I was feeling so proud as I finished it in 45 minutes, my record for a Sunday and also ran through it without stopping albeit at a slower pace than the King. Then your blog with its Easy rating and your all time high which is my typical Monday time, Uggh -- kidding btw, as i still feel good, especially as I do not know cars and still managed to get the themes. ANd I did not think tots for some reason thought togs probably because I had a g thinking: like a pop fly should end in ing.

Kathy 12:24 AM  

With you, profphil, and kidding also. I like to get a head start Saturday night and finish on Sunday morning, and I did the whole thing tonight, without Googling anything!

Fun puzzle.

Kathy

Chris 1:03 AM  

This was a personal best for me as well (~19 min). Even so, I found it to be an enjoyable puzzle. My fourth grade class spent an entire unit on the shtetl. I don't remember much about shtetls themselves, but my 10-year-old brain apparently noticed the odd spelling and decided to hold onto it for a while.

Whitey's mom 9:39 AM  

A real boost after yesterday, and yes, RP, I had tots too. Otherwise pretty smooth sailing. Thanks for the good blog.

Alan 10:32 AM  

One of the easiest Sunday puzzles I ever did . However I got caught by writing knot for knit and utli for utni.

Badir 11:07 AM  

Hey, it was my fastest Sunday, too! But that's just because it was my first Sunday solo. :) I filled the grid in 44 (yes, I had TOTS as well), but then checked everything and found I had misspelled TROOPER as TROUPER, which made the nonsense GIURGIO. So I fixed it at 51, which is what I'm counting.

rick 11:16 AM  

Rex,

If it's the same storm we had in Michigan overnight it is all the sound of weathermen and no fury.

Don't have the puzzle in front of me but I didn't put in TOT because, if I remember, TOT was in the clue for TRIKES.

puzzlegirl,

1. Stephen King was chased down by a book store owner a while ago because the owner thought some looney was defacing books. King had to introduce himself.

2. Anything by Margaret Atwood is worth reading and rereading.

Ulrich 11:16 AM  

Can someone explain to me why "yea big" is a "size approximation". I've never heard anyone say this, and consequently this section held me up forever because I kept trying to change correct answers to make sense of 40D.

Parshutr 11:23 AM  

dear ulrich,
it's pronounced "yay big" and is a very common expression, usually accompanied by hands held apart for the approximate size, ergo it's about this big.
Faus spelling from Yiddish, shtetl without the second e; had Tonka for the kids toy.
Easy, yes, but also very boring, except for the theme answers, which were only mildly amusing.

jordanboston 11:49 AM  

I never use KEN (76D) for UNDERSTANDING. It seems from searching that it's of Scottish origin... Left me with a frustrating blank square right in the middle.

Orange 11:56 AM  

Rex, if Rick's Michigan storm is the one Chicago had yesterday, 8 hours after the snow starts, there'll be a wicked layer of ice on everything, and 12 hours after that, it'll be 46 and rainy and you'll wish you hadn't wasted salt on the short-lived ice.

I did just read something recently about Laurie Anderson.

Ed Asner is, fortunately, not the only actor to win an Emmy for Roots. Also: Louis Gossett, Jr., and Olivia Cole. (Wow, am I getting nostalgic reading the list of the best TV of 1976-77. MTM! Zoom! Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman! Early SNL! The Barry Manilow Special! Muppet Show! The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, starring young John Travolta! Rockford Files! The original Bionic Woman! Family! (Sigh.)

EATON is also a Toronto street or shopping mall or something. CRANE clues don't have to stoop to brand names or people's names, since the bird, the construction equipment, and the verb are all well-known.

ren 12:02 PM  

I have to contest MESAS as an answer for 47A. Mesas are formed by the erosion of an initially flat surface. The moon has no atmosphere, therefore no erosion, and therefore no mesas. I had MARES for a long time (an actual feature on the moon--the darker areas which were thought to be seas centuries ago), which really fouled things up.

Had TOTS as well, making most of the Eastern side of the puzzle a complete disaster. I came nowhere close to a fastest time.

Jerry20020 12:11 PM  

I would have been in the 15 minute range -- if I had spelled the Isuzu 'trooper' instead of 'trouper'. I have no idea why I thought there should be a 'u' in it. Nor had I heard of the palazzo 'giorgio' in Milan so the cross didn't help.
So often on Sundays I whizz through and get stuck on one letter, inevitably a vowel.

Jerry20020

Omaha Lineman 12:24 PM  

I thought it was closer to a Tuesday or a Wednesday (in difficulty) than the normal Sunday's Thursday-like challenge. But, still entertaining.

Had to fix Tots, had "said" for ORAL, "earned" for NETTED, and "Nev" for CAL (Ore. neighbor). I thought it was always Nev! Just like a series of letters is always RST.

I liked SEZWHO. I hadn't really considered MESAS on the moon (in spite of Mezzaluna). I remembered Orange's mini-seminar on various Lao-Tsu spellings, which helped. And, I found TWENTIETHCENTURY kinda foxy.

PuzzleGirl 12:32 PM  

Orange: Thanks for mentioning Barry Manilow. Guess what song is going through my head right now???

wendy 12:33 PM  

So what's the *opposite* of smoking the puzzle? That was my experience. After several hours, I managed to finish all but the Eastern Seaboard down to about South Carolina, where OCCULT, LAURIE and FLAYED were my friends. Just couldn't get it to budge above that to save my life.

Part of my problem was that most of the car models weren't terribly obvious to me at first. I cracked the theme with the one automaker whose many vehicles I've actually owned - Volkswagen. And I had many PARTIAL answers filled in, but most of the models had to be excavated from the brainular recesses, and I never did get SIDEKICK.

But I enjoyed the puzzle a lot. Though at first the only gimmes were just crosswordese - your UTNEs, your UTAs, your IPOS - which was deflating, eventually I got LAURIE and then other stuff opened.

Well, I guess I knew ENGELS right off, too, but was reluctant to put it down right off because I couldn't verify it with any certainty with at least one Down.

Jewish subtheme was nice. YEA BIG was probably one of my favorite answers, although I tried spelling it YAY at first.

Was trying to fit Dead Zone in for King novel, because I wasn't sure which Lao extension was going to be on the menu today - TSE or Tzu.

Big disappointment of the day is that in the Magazine, Mike Nothnagel has a diagramless puzzle below Car Talk. I love that guy, but I have absolutely no understanding of how to solve one of those so it's just sitting there mocking me, as if in a STARING contest. I'm sure it's delightful, though!

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

So none of you regulars consider googling an answer to be cheating? I thought you're supposed to figure it all out without any reference aids. Which I usually do, but I don't finish in any 5 minutes!

joe 12:55 PM  

Anonymous raises a profound question. I don't know cheating, but certainly it's better not to have to google.

Jim in NYC 12:58 PM  

http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/28/messages/872.html

http://www.cjr.org/resources/lc/troops.php

See the articles at the URLs above. The reason for the questions posted above about "trouper" vs. "trooper" is that the puzzle answer is based on a borderline misusage. The phrase is "a real trouper," one who persists against obstacles, as a member of a theatrical troupe for whom "the show must go on." The phrase "real trooper" is a misspelling that unfortunately has passed into common usage, as shown by the relative numbers of Google hits.

joe 12:58 PM  

I got TADS all right. No lie. It used to be in Pogo all the time.

chefbea 1:00 PM  

I too had tots at first and I google all the time. Fun puzzle today. I use to know all the cars way back when I had a "57 robin's egg blue impalla convertible

nitpicker 1:14 PM  

this was an easy and elegant sunday, especially with the wife being a car fiend.

after getting INTERNET EXPLORER with help from crossings, i figured out the theme and then nailed all theme entries without any crossings! first time for this accomplishment ...

... except, somehow something seemed very wrong about THE LAST SAMURAI for Reliable Suzuki? :-( that's when i realized that i do need crossings.

needless to say TRUSTY SIDEKICK was the last theme entry to fall.

np

Ulrich 1:18 PM  

Wendy: We're not supposed to comment on puzzles other than the NYTimes crossword puzzle by Rex's rules. So if you see this, he let this one pass. I also was intimidated by the diagram-less ones for a long until I bit the bullet one day and bingo: it turned out easier than expected. What you have to know is that the first few answers are easy so that you can get started. Today's diagramless didn't take me much longer than today's diagrammed one (as I said before, I got hung up on yea big). And yes, it shows the Nothnagel touch.

Rex Parker 1:24 PM  

The "is Googling cheating" question is not only not a profound question - it's barely a question. We've been over this a million times.

a. it can't be "cheating" unless you are dishonest about it AND are engaged in some kind of contest with actual consequences.

b. most people don't Google unless they have Completely exhausted themselves. Why wouldn't you Google at that point? Do you enjoy your ignorance?

Do the puzzle in whatever way you like and save your judgments for someone who cares (which, believe me, is no one).

rp

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

I'm not sure I have this exactly correct, but: "When a body meet a body while comin' THRO the rye..."
Robert Burns, Poet. Therefore THRO is a poetic preposition, even if the poet is Scottish.

Rex - This is your blog so you can certainly run it as you like, but I'd like to suggest that when you comment that you never heard of a particular word in a clue or answer you encourage a slew of special pleaders and whiners among your readers. I take the view that a new word is a chance to expand my vocabulary. Puzzzles where I know every word, as M-W, ususally, are no fun and certainly not edumacational.

wendy 2:11 PM  

Ulrich, thank you for your comment. Mike's puzzle looks like a NYT crossword puzzle to me! ;) I really just wanted people to know that he had one in there today for those who would have regretted missing it.

CrsWrdLvr22 2:12 PM  

From "The Sound of Music's" "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" - learned of the word ken during our high school production...


Totally unprepared are you
To face a world of men
Timid and shy and scared are you
Of things beyond your ken

sang Rolfe to Liesl.

Aside to Puzzlegirl - read THE RED TENT for a great Leah/Rachel story.

Easy puzzle today. Would almost prefer a tad more difficult.

I can't believe these puzzle creators make the puzzle WITHOUT Googling, so go ahead and Google to solve. (My husband says I cheat when I do this but he doesn't even do the puzzles, so what does he know?

Nollie 2:33 PM  

Your comment on cheating, Rex, is one reason I love your blog. Great answer.

PuzzleGirl 3:49 PM  

crswrdlvr22: Loved The Red Tent. Made me wish I knew more about the Bible. Crosswords have the same effect -- I do tend to get tripped up on the Biblical references.

Lee 4:15 PM  

"Most people don't Google unless they have Completely exhausted themselves," writes Rex, but how Complete that exhaustion is varies widely, I suspect. I'll seek help only when I've absolutely given up, and I absolutely hate to give up. My most satisfying completion experiences have come after I've "given up" a few times but keep staggering back to the theme from "Rocky."

Nothnagel 4:20 PM  

Hey Ulrich and Wendy:

Thanks for the mention of my diagramless puzzle today...for those of you out there who are intimidated by a diagramless, you might be surprised at how much you can do without the starting hint.

If even that hint fails, Across Lite can give you the whole grid! (Of course, you need online puzzle access for that, but it may aid some of you!)

MN

wendy 4:37 PM  

Mike, you're right; I would be VERY surprised ... ;) But he's right, it can be converted to a regular puzzle, and I'm now going to do my second NYT puzzle of the day! Wooo hooo!

Orange 5:05 PM  

crswrdlvr22, constructors absolutely use Google and other references when writing the clues. Especially for a tough weekend puzzle—an interesting, fresh clue is a treasure, and a boring clue people have seen before isn't. They might also use onelook.com to find answers that will fit into a given letter pattern. Let's say you've got **ORA*. You could make it ANORAK or AMORAL—two that come to mind for me. If "too rad" were an established phrase, that would also fit. Onelook will turn up a lot of unusable crap, but it also reminds the constructor of Dvorak, thorax, agoras, hooray and hoorah, and floral—greatly expanding the possibilities for that corner beyond what comes readily to mind.

I am going to write up some sort of little "how to approach diagramless puzzles" tutorial for my blog. today. This may take a little time...

Leon (Nuevo....) 6:10 PM  

The Isuzu Trooper was discontinued in the U.S. in 2003
Not too many ads anymore. I did enjoy David Leisure as Joe Isuzu on the TV commercials.
Good puzzle and interesting comments.

Delilah 7:25 PM  

Mr. Parker,

I find it troubling that you disagree with Orange that your own solving experience does not color your rating of the puzzle at hand. I found this Sunday puzzle rather dull and a medium-challenge level due to my lack of car -related knowlege.

I find that the most fair and universally enjoyable themes are those which employ "plays on words" or "puns" or other vocabulary construations.

If I were in a puzzle competition I would find this puzzle unfair in that those who know cars have an advantage over those who don't. The bias is not the same as with the non-theme answers which are basically random in terms of their solvability.

I love your blog!!! :)

slowpoke 7:38 PM  

Is no one going to mention SCHUSS? What on earth?

Great blog!

Ulrich 8:12 PM  

slowpoke:

as many of the world's great skiers come from countries around the Alps and speak German, some of the German terms have become international skiing lingo. "Schuss" means "shot" in German and, in the context of skiing, a straight shot downhill, as opposed e.g. to a slalom.

jae 8:33 PM  

It was fun to do this one after finishing yesterday's around noon today. Nice to sit back and work THRO one with out stopping to stare for great lengths of time. Rex, I liked your google answer. I'm getting more stubborn and am willing to keep coming back several times before googling. I helps to be retired. I only googled Friday because the crossing were obscure facts (for me)that I knew I didn't know.

Michael 8:36 PM  

I found this puzzle of about medium difficulty while I was bumping around in an airplane going from D.C. to Chicago. As soon as I landed and was in O'Hare awaiting my next flight (the joys of living in a spoke), the puzzle seemed quite easy. I am assuming this is because I was distracted by the turbulence and not a brain because my brain functions better in open spaces.

J H Shannon 9:29 PM  

I'm just getting back into the crossword puzzle after a few years of neglect so today's was a very welcome respite: I didn't exactly breeze through it and some mental meltdown (and misspellings!) had me confused for a bit, but I persevered. I didn't time myself since I picked it up here and there during the day. Staring contest threw me off because I had Tots for 72 D, but arced saved that little struggle.
Nice site. I'm glad I found it to check my answers!

Jerry20020 9:45 PM  

Cheating or non?
Of course, it's best when you work out the puzzle yourself, testing your wits and ultimately besting the puzzle.
But ...
Sometimes you reach an impasse - one imposed not too fairly by the demand that you know some obscure athlete or county capital or director of some play you never heard of. In these cases you google and may or may not come up with the right answer; indeed, sometimes you have to be more clever than lucky to scan the google hits and find the needle in the haystack.
But, sometimes even googling doesn't help.
And if you get to that lonely place you can always pull up Rex's grid and -- really, really cheat.

Dan 10:50 PM  

Just under 30 minutes here, about my best for a Sunday puzzle too, although made more difficult by the fact that I don't really know anything about car models.

billnutt 11:49 PM  

Laurie Anderson is still working and creating new performance pieces. I had the pleasure of interviewing her a couple of years ago. Hair is still spiky, though grayer than when she sang "O Superman." She's still hanging out with Lou Reed, too, I believe.

When the movie version of CHRISTINE came out in the mid-1980s, the ad slogan was "Body by Plymouth, soul by Satan." I like the fact that the constructor used the Stephen King novel about a killer car in a puzzle built around the car theme.

I don't care about cars (which drives my car-crazy cutie of a wife up the wall), but I sorta liked this puzzle. It became less a puzzle about remembering car models than about recalling phrases that began with the correct opening.

I love it when the actor who does the voice of Homer Simpson (name escapes me - Dan somethingorother)gets to read clues on JEOPARDY when the category is "Quotations from Homer." "After three weeks, we encounted the island of the Lotus-eaters. Mmmmm, lotus..."

Nothing really earth-shattering, but after the brutalizing of the past two days, this was a tonic.

Rikki 1:53 AM  

And she'll have fun, fun, fun, till her Daddy takes the T-Bird away! This was a fun one, cars and all. The title reminded me of those hilarious brothers in Boston who do the car talk show on Saturday morning.

I moved all weekend and finally got to put my feet up and do a puzzle. I'm glad I started with this one. It was a joyous romp. And it's great to see Rex floating on a cloud. This is the most gleeful you've been since I started reading your blog. Way to rock!

Sorry about the snow, guys. Sunny and 75 in Southern Cal.

Now, I'm going back to do yesterday's puzzle which doesn't sound like it will be quite as much of a romp.

francois 7:16 AM  

Can anybody explain 52 a ("Bump" is the definition for JAR) ?

ArtLvr 8:57 AM  

When someone bumps into you, it can be jarring! Does that help? I'm not savvy when it comes to cars, but was able to get everything in good time anyway. I especially enjoyed the miniature Golf, as it reminded me of the one I rode in years ago in Salzburg-- friends had bought it in Europe to ship back to the U.S. after out travels behind the Iron Curtain. When we crossed the checkpoint, a guard asked if friend were Polish, because of his name: I said "No, American!" vehemently. then I was embarrased, because the youngster just wanted to be friendly...

Rob G. 1:29 PM  

Not that it needs to be discussed further, but...

My girlfriend has an interesting take on the "cheating" issue. She's a little obsessive about her puzzles (keeps completed ones in a binder!) but this allows for a great learning tool. Anytime she resorts to Google, she writes the answers she got from it in red. This helps her remember unknown-but-repeated clues, and helps show her progress (less red on late-week puzzles=yay!)

I never leave a puzzle empty, always Google if I'm completely stuck (after many walk-aways) and kick myself if I have to Google before Thursday.

Liked the puzzle, loved the theme. A perfect Sunday.

Ger 4:02 PM  

Sun Dec 9, 2007
as Wendy said way upthread..
So what's the *opposite* of smoking the puzzle?
Well, I too am in the non-smoking section. (1.0 hr ++++) On my first pass, the NW fell nicely. Actually knowing 1A: ENGELS and 1D: ELIJAH and adding 9D: TOX gave me 23A: INTERNETEXPLORER and the theme (not that it helped, I know nada about car/suv models).
Much trouble as I moved East. It finally became apparent I had to give up my 36A: NONFAT diet for NOSALT.
SE side, I had to say goodbye to 98D:ARCANE and 100D: PEELED. I pondered on and finally finished (I admit to help from google... twice)
What I learned today:
90A: traduce = malign. I did not know this word. Now I do. I will introduce this word into a conversation asap.
65A: SHTETLS = Jewish villages. I didn't know this, now I do.
19D: TENS (well!) Two hours after finishing this puzzle, whilst typing this entry, I JUST figured out the clue. Where tens go in a till! *aw grin* (one sweet clue)
Last: Googling for answers: I try my best to finish without *cheating*. If I'm stonewalled, I will search for the answer. I do tend to read a lot about whatever I have to look up so, IMHO, that's the point of doing crosswords.
This blog is the best ..

Cy 7:56 PM  

Ger
Tens in the till? I think it meant second (to the left) from the decimal point in a number, with units being first, then tens,hundreds etc

Ger 1:22 PM  

Sunday Dec 16, 2007
oh .. you're absolutely right cy.
I could claim puzzle-fatigue but I think I'll just *read the WHOLE clue* next time
:)

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