MONDAY, Nov. 17, 2008 - Paula Gamache (Caveat on a party invitation: Abbr. / Football referees, informally / Place to begin to connect the dots)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Pleading - theme answers are phrases that begin with synonyms for "plead"

A super-easy puzzle - a nice, conventional transition back into the puzzling week after yesterday's amazing (and televised) feat of construction by Merl Reagle. This is about the most basic, straightforward, no-nonsense, vanilla theme I've seen in the NYT in a good long while. Overall, I don't think the non-theme fill quite compensates for the theme's lacklusterness. GASBAG (36A: Big talker) is kinda nice, as is POINT A (64A: Place to begin to connect the dots), but the rest I could take or leave. But as I say, people gotta come down off that Sunday puzzle somehow, and this one should help people find their footing, regain their bearings, etc.

Theme answers:

  • 20A: Demand legal restitution after injury (SUE for damages)
  • 33A: Seek compassionate treatment (BEG for mercy)
  • 41A: What drought victims might do (PRAY for rain)
  • 56A: Take unnecessary risks (ASK for trouble)

I suppose I should give the puzzle a little more credit for having all the theme answers be in the same verb-"for"-noun structure. Done and done.

I squawked at a couple of answers in this puzzle, but not very loudly. IN A SNARL just felt off to me, even when I googled it and saw that it's not terribly uncommon, particularly in relation to traffic. I squawked a bit more at BYO (39D: Caveat on a party invitation: Abbr.), which feels like it's missing a letter, namely "B" (as in "beer"); apparently it's a general term for restaurants that allow you to bring in your own alcohol ... I guess I can accept that.

Two one-named singers in the puzzle today. EMINEM (16A: "8 Mile" rapper) raps more than he sings (though the distinction is not at all clear cut, in that pitch matters much of the time in rap). He should do a duet with SADE (18A: One-named singer of "Smooth Operator") - an odd combination that I might actually like to hear. This is what Sade sounds like:

And this is EMINEM - with (the non-classical) Dido, who, like SADE, is a singer, so maybe a SADE/EMINEM duet is feasible (this is a creepy video about a deeply troubled guy):

The two performers do share one thing: they both appear in crosswords with reasonable frequency. Another frequent grid denizen: AMANA (31A: Kitchenaid alternative). Its commercial-name counterpart in today's puzzle, NIKON (24A: Pentax competitor), on the other hand, hardly ever appears in the puzzle. "K"s are murder on puzzle frequency - unless you are KOS or TKO. Those appear a lot. Lastly, where crosswordese is concerned, we have one from the vaults: EMS (13D: Bad _____ (German spa)). I learned this in the olden days (P.S. - Pre-Shortz). Nowadays, EMS is likely to me clued either as the plural of the letter "M" or as an abbrev. of Emergency Medical Services. Speaking of one from the vault - here's a MONO (22D: Like the earliest Beatles recordings) recording for your Monday enjoyment:

The Rest:

  • 69A: They generally run east-west in Manhattan: Abbr. (sts.) - as opposed to AVES.
  • 6D: Expense account no-no (padding) - a nice clue/answer pairing, though I was looking for something specific and PADDING seems general. There is no way I'm going to be able to explain exactly what I mean right now, so I'm not even going to try. OK, I'll try. I was thinking a concrete act or thing, like, let's say, HOOKER. I was not thinking the general act of misusing an expense account. There. At least I tried.
  • 10D: Almost any part of the Michelin Man (tire) - wow ... first, he's made of TIREs? HA ha, I didn't really pick up on that. Second, why are the TIREs white? Third, how many "parts" does he have, and which *aren't* made of TIREs, and do I even want an answer to that last question?
  • 42D: Western gambling mecca (Reno) - ONER, NERO, ORNE, ERNO ... just playin' around. RENO is also known as "The Biggest Little City in the World," which sounds (unfortunately, but perhaps not coincidentally) like "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."
  • 48D: "The Simpsons" storekeeper (Apu) - nowhere to be seen in last night's xword episode, sadly.
  • 49D: Football referees, informally (zebras) - a cool clue and a vibrant answer that gives us a nice zingy "Z"

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Noam D. Elkies 11:35 PM  

Monday arrives early in Rex Standard Time.

39D: Funny I thought the second B in BYOB stood for Bottle. confirms Rex's Beer as the first choice, giving also Booze and Bottle. So does, for what it's worth. Wikipedia goes with Booze, then Beer, then Bottle, then Beef(!) (for a barbecue). It does suggest that Bottle may have been the original meaning.


km.edgerton 12:49 AM  

I've also heard, for the teetotalers out there, (byo)Beverage. That gives guests quite a bit of latitude.

Easy puzzle. A nice plain-Jane Monday after the complexity of yesterday.

ArtLvr 1:00 AM  

Good morning!

@ noam -- just left you a note on yesterday's comments!

@ Rex -- how did you start today's solving that you didn't have 4A ALPS before looking at 6D PADDING? Your train of thought was amusing at any rate!

A very fast Monday for me -- good coherent theme answers and a few smiles on the fill, like DEGAS GASBAG and GPAS, plus OPS and OPTS, ODS and OODLES. It felt a bit like a scrabble game where you keep drawing the same letters each turn...

Guess I'd better turn in! (Praying for no snow).


andrea carla michaels 1:59 AM  

you never get to see Ringo do the lead singing! Thanks for that clip!
(good antidote to that crazy eminem/dido one before...yikes!)

OODLES was fun!

In today's Scrabble tournament I illegally played BAFT. Now that I look at it in the puzzle, of course it's AB+AFT, to + rear...
But I was thinking more like BLOOM/ABLOOM, BREAST/ABREAST

Speaking of abreast, your whole Hooker/Michelin Man parts/Best little whorehouse was quite amusing! Was that an homage to DK?

Someone please let that EEL out of the aquarium. Sad.

Doug 2:16 AM  

@artlvr: "praying for no snow" We are dying for more snow out here in Vancouver. Whistler opens in a week and you can still comfortably walk in the village in a jacket. Our recently depereciated Canadian dollar (LOONIE) makes Canada good value for Americans so please come spend!

RP: Can someone now spill the beans on the hidden clues from Sunday? I had to coach a hockey game and missed the Simpsons. Was the hype justified? Hope so!

Also, thanks Rex for pointing me to the Philly Enquirer puzzle on the Simpsons. A+, although I understandably had trouble playing the song notes from their awkward position. Speaking of Philly, is away somewhere? I couldn't read the blog for about 10 days and this probably came up.

Greene 7:02 AM  

So many things to like about yesterday. Still in awe of Merl for the amazing construction feat. There was lots of fun on the Simpsons yesterday too. Loved Marge's response to Lisa's announcement that she's a cruciverbalist: "Oh, not another religion!" It's only funny because it's true. I had a not so lovely flash of self-recognition during the episode. It occurs to me that I'm like the old guy at the license office who doesn't know FDR's middle name. I am getting better though.

@Orange: I have never met you and only know you through your witty posts and wonderful blog. Seeing Lisa Simpson alone in her bedroom, on fire for crosswords (in some kind of frenzy) somehow made me think of you. Apt or completely off?

One quibble: the flier given to Lisa which announces the crossword tournament labels the event as "Fun for Nerds." Have we not clearly established at this blog that crossword enthusiasts are not nerds? We are DORKS...I mean, really.

Today's puzzle was a nice comedown from yesterday and even includes APU. It was extremely easy, but seemed just right.

joho 7:20 AM  

@noam d. elkies: I always thought the last "B" stood for booze. An ugly word! Beer sounds more modern so I think it might be a generational thing.

I liked Photo OPS and NIKON in the same puzzle. And, Rex, while NIKON may be rare, didn't we just see it in a grid recently?

This is a good, solid Monday I'd say and a decent start to the week.

Anonymous 7:30 AM  

Do Geo. Harrison's fingers match the guitar solo he plays?

Edith B 9:31 AM  

I liked this puzzle. It had a tight theme and I liked the juxtapostion of AMANA and EMINEM and also the way NOD and STS were clued.

All in all, simple enough for newbies but with a certain fizz to it.

mac 9:36 AM  

Very quick breakfast rather than lunch puzzle. I think Paula Gamache has nice clueing even in the easiest puzzles. I guess I needed a breezy one after yesterday's excitement!

Thought BYOB meant "booze", but then I'm not sure I have ever heard anyone say it out loud. It's not as bad as cash bars at wedding receptions.....

Ulrich 9:53 AM  

..and I thought the "b" stood for "beverage". Anyway, I agree that this was a good and easy Monday puzzle.

One small quibble: NDE mentioned yesterday that all constructors have to make compromises, and it seems to me that this puzzle demonstrates that this is even the case for simple Monday puzzles: Salsa is a dip, as far as I know, so why would one add "dip"? One wouldn't say "I'm going to eat an apple fruit", right?

joho 10:01 AM  

ulrich: the word salsa describes what the dip is made of ... like cheese dip. Works for me.

Orange 10:11 AM  

@Ulrich: Sometimes I mix cream cheese into my salsa and melt them together. I think it just might become a salsa dip when I do that (and yum, it's tasty!). Plain salsa, though, I don't want to append the word "dip" to.

@Greene: Why, thank you. Being likened to Lisa Simpson is a huge compliment!

@Doug: Ah, beautiful Whistler. I don't ski, but vacationed there once after a Vancouver business meeting. Had a hot tub on the deck with a view of fog/cloud-shrouded mountains.

@Rex: I just noticed the Motel Hell poster in Sunday's post. Rory Calhoun!

Jim in Chicago 10:13 AM  

joho: I gotta disagree with you on salsa. The word pretty much just means "sauce" and can be comprised of pretty much anything. So, Mole, for example, is a kind of salsa as is Guacamole.
To say "salsa dip" is pretty much saying "sauce dip".

I also have a problem with PETITE as the answer for "smaller than small", since petite clothing really only means that you're dealing with a small torso, relative to the legs. PETITE clothing comes in a pretty much full range of sizes, which overlap the "regular" clothing sizes.

chefbea1 10:30 AM  

Of course w e all know what I think the B means in BYOB !!!

Loved yesterdays puzzle and program - amazing!!

@Hazel (from Sunday) good luck. Hope you will be doing better

@jasonvalasik glad you have joined our group

Edith B 10:51 AM  

And I thought the second B in BYOB stood for the neutral "Bottle" and covered non-alcoholic beverages as well.

Ulrich 10:53 AM  

@orange: OK, I get it.

Re. Bad Ems (this is for people interested in European history): The name is forever connected to the (in)famous Emser Depesche ("Dispatch from Ems"), a main cause of the 1870/71 Franco-Prussian War in that it motivated France to declare war on Prussia--with disastrous results for France. The story is complicated and needs a lot of background to be understood. But the gist is this: The king of Prussia was staying in Bad Ems zur Kur, i.e. to improve his health. One morning, the amabassador of France confronted him while he was taking his morning stroll on the promenade (image the lack of security in those days!) on a matter of contention between France and Prussia. The king sent a dispatch to his government about the meeting, and the then Prime Minister of Prussia, Bismarck, edited it for publication in a way that displeased public opinion in France to such a degree that its emperor, Napoleon III, declared war soon after (as I said it's complicated, and I know only the German version).

dk 10:54 AM  

We are up and skiing here in Southern MN. My first day of patrol is next Monday then I am off to New Mexico for t-day and perhaps Taos if there is snow.

I won a pen from my local radio station because in 196? I called in and identified one of the Beatles and that one was Ringo. It was before they came to the US. I think the album I had was Mono and titled Meet the Beatles. For the vinyl vs CD crowd my album may have been acetate.

@Andrea, we have a sea worm that is very cool. It is blue in the aquarium.

Zebras is my favorite for the day, although their little hoofs must tear up the field.

evil doug 11:40 AM  


There's a good reason why you don't usually see Ringo as the lead singer. As a vocalist he's a heck of a good drummer. Not to mention the inherent creepiness of boys singing "Boys". I'll chalk it up to John Lennon's appreciation of irony....

Speaking of whom, John Lennon came in at number 5 on Rolling Stone's list of top vocalists. The only doll I own is John in his collarless gray suit and black boots, standing at a microphone as he works his Rickenbacker. Now THERE was a singer....

I don't do the Sunday puzzle---too expensive---but in addition to the obvious magic I'm most impressed that Fox and the Times could somehow coordinate scripts, puzzles and especially dates of publication/airing.


edmcan 12:12 PM  


re: Michelin Tire Man-I don't think the tires are white, rather they are wrapped in white paper(plastic?)for shipping.

jeff in chicago 12:21 PM  

Fun, easy Monday.

I like to think that BYOB is very specific. It's bourbon.

I was just the slightest bit sad that the Simpsons episode didn't include our (my) most favorite crossword denizen APU. Glad to see him show up today.

I'm oddly amused when an entire column or row of a puzzle seems to contain a message. Therefore, today we see that someone plans to ABDUCT ARLO ROE. Also, thanks to some posts above, I became WISETO SALSADIP. (I feel like John Nash [A Beautiful Mind], seeing messages where there are none.)

miriam b 12:31 PM  

I thought I saw Apu at the license bureau. Great Simpsons episode, and wonderful tie-in to the puzzle.

I agree (mostly) with Jim in Chicago. I usually do think of PETITE in terms of proportion, as in Size 6P, or even Size 18P - or beyond. I sew when I have time, and IMX most commercial patterns have fold lines and other features which enable one to shorten them from regular size to petite. OTOH, some ready-made garments, usually knits or T shirts, which are commonly offered in SML sizes, may also come in PSML.

Cheryl 12:46 PM  

@jeff in chicago

I agree those curious juxtapositions are an added bonus in the puzzle, especially if one supposes they are not intentional, but coincidental occurences that arise from the needs of the construction.

I also found 'Liesl Hotcha' yesterday while looking for the second message. Fabulous.

Doc John 1:24 PM  

Wasn't thrilled about SALSA DIP. Otherwise, a fine Monday puzzle.

@ greene- I'm very proudly a nerd, thank you very much!

mexgirl 1:35 PM  

I taped yesterday's Simpsons and had Sunday's puzzle at hand (all completed thanks to Rex) while watching it. All I can say is BRAVO to Merl and Will (or should I say BRAVI?). What a feat!

mac 1:44 PM  

@ulrich: I'm with you on the salsa. I actually expected an ingredient after the "salsa", like verde or poblamo, but couldn't think of one of only three letters. Chefbea and mexicangirl?

In London is a wonderful restaurant called Bibendum in the Michelin building, a pretty Art Deco structure, I think owned by Conrad's. You can buy earthenware ashtrays there with the Michelin man sitting on the edge, all in off-white. Food is great, too, and the nicest trait of the restaurant is the amount of space they allot to every table.

rafaelthatmf 1:50 PM  

Something catchy. Something sardonic. Something witty. The only way I could find a way to write something funny, sardonic and witty today. Sorry, that's all I've got.

nanpilla 2:00 PM  

Hello, everyone. First time posting here. I love coming here every day to see what Rex has to say, and then read your comments.

I have a question for all of you more experienced puzzlers. I am thinking of going to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament next February.
I could handle finishing DFL, but I would rather not look like a complete fool. I typically do a Mon, Tues or Wed in 10 - 15 min., a Thursday in 20 min., and a Friday or Saturday in about an hour. Are these times even in the ballpark, or am I completely out of my league?
Loved the Simpsons episode yesterday. I had figured out both of the messages, and laughed out loud when the name Bouvier came up. I hadn't been able to figure out how that fit in!
Thanks in advance for any advice, and thanks for a great forum for me to get my puzzle fix!

Orange 2:40 PM  

@Nanpilla, the time limit for the easy daily-sized ACPT crosswords is 15 minutes. The Sunday-sized puzzle has a limit of about 45 minutes (at most). Even incomplete puzzles are scored, though, and the only way to place last is to completely skip some of the puzzles, so you won't be last unless you oversleep a lot. There are five solving divisions, too, so competitors are up against solvers at their own level.

Ulrich 3:07 PM  

@nanpilla: I went this year after having done up to then only the Sunday puzzles. I did really, really poorly (watching as little TV as I do doesn't help). But I had such a good time (sitting next to acme during the award dinner was one of the high points!) that I plan do go again next year. My prepartion: Doing the puzzle very day now if I have a chance.

Look at it this way: Wouldn't you like to compete in the Olympics and observe the champions close-up even if you yourself are not competitive? The only requirement IMHO is that you do not take yourself too seriously.

mac 3:10 PM  

@Orange - maybe you can help. The "Bouvier" issue must have gone right by me, what is it about?

Also, do you mean that a Thursday-difficulty puzzle has te be done in 15 minutes as well?

nanpilla 3:11 PM  

@Orange, thanks for the info. I guess I will start at the lowest level and see how it goes!

@ulrich, I already do the puzzle every day, so I think I will take the plunge. It's nice to know that other newbies will be there, too.

Crosscan 3:21 PM  

Hi gang. I'm catching up on a few days, checking in from Toronto, en route to Montreal after a stopoff in Disney World.
[yes, of course Disney World is on the way from Victoria to Montreal. You just use the wrong travel agent]

Amazing how accurately the bar scene at the ACPT was portrayed. I've got $50 on Orange to make the A finals this year, any takers?

Simpsons puzzles and show - Wow. Just wow.

@andrea - I listened to your interview on the airplane. Funny stuff.

@doug - Snow expected out here. Shall I bring some back?

Loverboy talk - Canadian rockers... my favorite is - naah, I won't start that again.

Rex, you can never go wrong with the Beatles.

meotch 3:50 PM  

It seems like the Michelin man's eyes and mouth are not tires.

Thought you might mention (or include a clip of) this great Simpsons moment:
Lisa: [reading Homer's BBQ invitations] "Come to Homer's BBBQ. The extra B is for BYOBB."
Bart: What's that extra B for?
Homer: That's a typo.

chefbea1 4:27 PM  

@mac the question was "What was Marge's maiden name." The answer was Bouvier.

I plan to go to the acpt in February. I certainly want to meet everyone. Is it two days - sat and sunday?

Ulrich 4:37 PM  

@chefbea: It starts Friday evening. When I walked into the lobby (actually up an escalator) I was presented with a scene I have never seen in a hotel: Geeks/dorks/nerds/very distinguished looking folks (pick one) wherever you look--on chairs, standing up, sitting at tables--with their noses glued to xword puzzles.

mexgirl 5:07 PM  

I would go with "very distinguished and intellectually looking crowd".

Orange 6:01 PM  

@Mac, the puzzles are of varying sizes. The two easiest, #1 and #4, are 15x15 with a 15-minute limit. #5 is a bear; it and #2 are, I think, 17x17, with #3 and #6 being 19x19 and Sunday's #7 being Sunday-sized 21x21. Harder or bigger puzzles have longer time limits than smaller and easier ones.

foodie 7:06 PM  

I finished today's puzzle quickly, and wondered what Rex would say about it...I felt that if I were in his place, I couldn't come up with very much. I was impressed that he found plenty to talk about, and cool associations to related topics.

re the tournament-- is it possible to register as a guest, not a participant? I'm likely to be in NYC for work reasons that weekend, and would love to pop in and meet people. Is there a venue for mingling rather than solving?

@artlvr, orange and Bill from NJ, thanks for your input yesterday. I'm pleased to hear what you said, i.e. that it takes a little stretch of your own imaginations to hear Mr. Reagle's puns as similar. As, I mentioned, I did get them all, but wondered in the process if I still needed to add more wiggle room in my head than I already had. It's hard to explain, since I have zero problem in oral communication, in either direction. But there's little corner of speech that mystifies me-- my husband (a "real" American) can barely tell the difference between Ginny and Jenny, and I have a friend who can't hear the difference between Sheraton and Sheridan, and to me these are so clearly different... I think it's because I learned mostly from reading rather than hearing. Being in a business where we try to be as precise as possible, it's fun to have the converse goal-- learning to blur.

@doug, I believe we heard from Philly and he is in France... I'm jealous!

@evil doug, I've never seen a doll of John Lennon with a guitar. Is it a collector's item?

chefbea1 7:36 PM  

@foodie I would like to be a guest also and meet every one. so how do we do this.

Crosscan 7:46 PM  

Chefbea et al why not just enter as a competitor. Many entrants are not there to be competitive but to have fun. You will get to try the puzzles and no one cares how well you do this upcoming year will be my third and I can say that no one asks how you did at all of the various events.

fikink 7:55 PM  

@foodie, I am always bemused by your insightful observations of North American speech patterns. I grew up in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago and never knew I had a Chicago accent until I went to Southern Illinois, very bucolic, and was told as much.
(Yet it wasn't anything like "da Bulls and da Bearsssss" of the city.)
Then we went to Virginia Beach and I was asked whether or not I was British. (This is where the headshop was.) I found the Virginians so genteel and mellifluous, I felt much the clod and so I was perplexed at the question. (I think it had to do with elocution which my "laugh-a-minute VALEOFTEARS" mother insisted on.)
All this to indicate the influence of "blurring" in my travels. Have blur, will mingle.

ArtLvr 8:31 PM  

@ fikink, foodie -- Both my parents grew up in Chicago suburbs too, attending good public high schools, then went east to college... Mother, class of '31, said she was required to take an elocution course to modify her midwestern accent. Wow!

My ex was a native of the San Jose, California area. He always claimed he had the most neutral of Ameriican accents -- no one asked where he was from.

I rather adore accents, myself... Reminds us we're a "melting pot", and should lead to more fun and greater tolerence if we're aware that not everyone comes from the same place in outlook, manners, etc.


joho 9:08 PM  

@artlvr: very interesting about the neutral Californian accent. I think you're right. I was born there and moved to Minneapolis at the age of seven. I never picked up a Minnesota accent because my parents spoke "Californian." When eighteen I moved to NYC and never picked up a New York accent either. I'm like you, too, and really love hearing the way people speak from different parts of the country and the world.

Oh, by the way, I had a delicious SALSA DIP with chips for dinner ... yummmm.

chefbea1 9:43 PM  

When I went to college - in massachuttes(sp) everyone thought I was from the south, and to this day I get asked in what part of the south did I grow up. I guess it's just the midwest twang!!

fergus 10:14 PM  

Moving from Chicago to California as a teenager made my brothers and me acutely conscious of our vowel sounds, particularly the O and A sounds, and especially the soft variety of each. Pardon this example, but we learned to reduce the expression "God damn it" from five syllables to three. When some old friends came out to visit six months later, we sure thought they talked funny.

Regardless of where I am, people always think I'm from somewhere else, but that's what happens when you're an alien.

Orange 10:23 PM  

@foodie, chefbea: See the ACPT program for details. You can register for the whole shebang for $275 (well, that was the 2008 fee), pay $225 to attend everything but not enter the tournament, or go a la carte for the Friday evening events, the Sunday finals, or the Sunday Overpriced Luncheon. Saturday and Sunday loitering appears to be free, but you'll need to make your own nametag for anyone to know who you are.

mac 10:30 PM  

When our son was a little boy (2 - 3) he spoke very clearly, and people were always looking higher than they expected to see him (he started walking and talking at 11 months). I really think it was my mid-Atlantic, crisp accent that made his way of speaking stand out. Even my Dutch accent is considered very accent-less, coming from Castricum/Haarlem, no real dialect. It's really amazing that in a small country like Holland we recognize accents and dialects from villages 2 miles or less away, and there are many dialects I would not understand at all.

miriam b 10:36 PM  

@artLvr: I too was forced to have my slight regional accent (Bridgeport, CT) ironed out as a freshman in college. I had a rather flat "a" which was permanently corrected. There was also corrective gym, where my slightly pronated ankles were successfully dealt with. All this was nearly a generation after your mother's experience.

I must have a neutral accent now, or a non-accent, because no one speculates as to my background. I have been asked whether I'm a teacher or a librarian, but I guess that's because I'm basically a nerd.

mac 10:50 PM  

Thank you, Orange and chefbea! I just came back from dinner with our good friend/architect who currently lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He also had a great experience during and after election day, with people hugging and congratulating him.

foodie 1:33 AM  

Hi all, it's cool how this discussion turned into people talking about their local accents! It reminded me of something that happened to me when I first came to the US and visited the south. A cabbie asked me what kind of funny accent I had. I said: "I come from the Middle East" (Trying to avoid a political discussion which often ensues if I get more specific). He said: "That's strange! We have a Mideast? I thought it was them people from the Midwest that spoke weird!" I said it's a different kind of weird in the Midwest. That seemed to satisfy him.

Now, when people ask me about my accent, I say I'm from Michigan (which is true). It's amazing how few people push beyond that.

@Orange: Thank you so much for all the helpful information about the tournament! I hope to make it there, without a name tag, and see if you all can place me from my mideast/midwest accent.

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