Charles IX's court poet / FRI 1-8-10 / Night light used by Sherlock Holmes / 1995 thriller identity theft / Quinquennial dance in Harry Potter

Friday, January 8, 2010

Constructor: Patrick Berry

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: none

Word of the Day: BULLS-EYE LANTERN (37A: Night light used by Sherlock Holmes)

— The Bullseye Lantern was a very popular tool used as early as the 13th century. It was an oil lit lantern that was encased in a tin box, with a refractive piece of glass that used the lit wick as its centerpiece, thus the name bullseye. As the Bullseye Lantern progressed, it became standard issue for Police in London, eventually made without oil and operated by battery and a light bulb. (


Ah, a nice, easy palate cleanser after two straight days of super-intense flavors. I did this on paper while lying in bed, so I don't know how long it took, but I know that once I got traction — which happened fairly quickly: C.I.A. (1D: Plame affair org.) to "I BET" (14A: Sarcastic reply) to ABS (2D: Things used during crunch time?) to ASFARASICANTELL (17A: "That's how it looks to me, anyway") ... — I never stopped writing for more than a few seconds until the puzzle was done. C.I.A to SEACOW (64A: Docile marine mammal) with nary a hiccup. I had to pause here and there, and do an end run around some recalcitrant answers, but all in all, no problems.

And oddly literary Friday, with three long answers from the world of literature, none of which I knew straight off. Guessed the end of BULLSEYE LANTERN, but had to wait for the middle part of it. Sounds familiar now that I see it, but it did not leap out at me. I am somewhat familiar with the work of PIERRE DE RONSARD (11D: Charles IX's court poet), having had a course in early French literature in college. Sadly for me, though, I couldn't tell you the first thing about Charles IX and anyway I knew PIERRE DE RONSARD as just RONSARD, so I had to get crosses down to the third "R" before "RONSARD" finally sprang to mind. Never read a Clive Cussler novel in my life, but as with PIERRE DE RONSARD, once I got the first two parts of the answer (RAISE THE), the third (TITANIC) went in easily (7D: Clive Cussler best seller made into a 1980 film). And yet "THE NET" was a gimme (19D: 1995 thriller about identity theft) Always somewhat alarming when literature fails me but 90s crap pop culture is BAM, right there.

Two curious aspects of this puzzle: its Amero-egocentrism and its nerdiness. Evidence for the former: Three different occurrences of AMERICA — AMERICAN INDIANS, the first "A" in AMA, and USA — and three different occurrences of the pronoun "I" — AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, I BET, I SEE. As for nerdiness, well, that's a bit more obvious. We got your "Lord of the Rings" (ORC — 8D: Member of Sauron's army), we got your Hogwart's (YULE — 13D: ___ Ball, quinquennial dance in Harry Potter), we got your Dungeons & Dragonsesque medieval literary classic (EDDA — 36A: 13th-century literary classic). "Monk" (32D: Monk's first name on "Monk" — ADRIAN), "South Park" (48A: "South Park" boy — KENNY) and Sherlock Holmes are on the outside edges of the nerd constellation as well. Good stuff.


  • 41A: King defeated at Châlons (Attila) — he's somehow a very disguisable king. I typically go from "wha?" to "OH!" in a few crosses with him.
  • 46A: Mason's assistant (Street) — probably an old clue, but I love it. Perry Mason, Della STREET. I love that both their names are common, unrelated words.

["Now ... why did I come in here again?"]

  • 50A: 1950s-'60s actor known as the Switchblade Kid (Mineo) — got it before looking at the clue. Had the -NEO.
  • 60A: French dip's dip (jus) — seen most commonly in the culinary phrase "au JUS."
  • 61A: Chevy model discontinued in 2001 (Lumina) — Mmm, discontinued automobiles. A constructor's best friend. See also EDSEL and ALERO (any OLDS, in fact).
  • 30D: Father Time's prop (scythe) — named for the Scythians who most famously wielded them. I just made that up, but now I'm going to see if it's right ... hmm. Found this: "According to Jack Herer and "Flesh of The Gods" (Emboden, W.A., Jr., Praeger Press, NY, 1974.); the ancient Scythians grew hemp and harvested it with a hand reaper that we still call a scythe." It's got a real citation and everything. Must be true.
  • 51D: 1989 Radio Hall of Fame inductee (Imus) — I will always associate him with Cancun, as that is where I was when the scandal broke that got him kicked off of TV.
  • 53D: Italian boxer Benvenuti (Nino) — never heard of him, and never even saw this clue. Scary. I really should check all the crosses, and usually on late-week puzzles I have to. Not today.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Ruth 6:16 AM  

Sigh. I hated that AMA was correct for "practice overseers". That's not at all what the AMA is about. It's a political/lobbying organization. Its mission, at heart, is guarding the interests of the medical profession, but it doesn't have anything to do with "overseeing" actual medical practice. A lot of people have the misconception that to be a doctor you have to be a card-carrying member of the AMA, but I think <25% of docs are members. Ah well. Pet peeve.

DvN 6:24 AM  

Turning the noun 'narc' into narked?

Greene 7:10 AM  

Wonderful Friday puzzle and what a relief after the blistering challenges that were Wednesday and Thursday. Love the structure of the grid with those 6 interlocking 15-letter answers. No junk in the grid either, just smooth, creamy goodness.

Never heard of the BULLSEYE LANTERN, but this was pretty gettable with the crosses. Like Rex, I just wrote in THE NET without even thinking. I saw way too many crappy movies back in the 1980s and 1990s. Got RAISE THE TITANIC off just the C in SEACOW. I really should read more.

@Ruth: I share your irritation at the clue for AMA. Wanted HMO for "Practice overseers" since they always seem to be butting into my practice on a daily basis. And how! As for professional organizations, I've been a card carrying member of The American College of Physicians for 20 years, but the AMA? No use for those political jokers.

edith b 7:58 AM  

This puzzle reminded me of what a Maleska-type puzzle would look like with Will Shortz in charge: and old-fashioned information based puzzle that ran the gamut from Sherlock Holmes thru LOTR with a pitstop at Charles IX and, as Rex put it, crap 90s pop culture.

These are the kind of puzzles that I enjoyed before I came here and began to learn how to deal with wordplay-based puzzles that didn't rely on received knowledge.

HudsonHawk 7:58 AM  

I was slow to fill things in that seemed right, so probably closer to Medium for me. The possibility of COOKIE for TIDBIT had me thinking KEROSENE before BULLSEYE. Otherwise, pretty smooth. Nice Friday puzzle from Mr. Berry.

SethG 8:15 AM  

My first try there was ABA.

Three things I'd never heard of combined to leave me with errors.

Apparently, "Disembarrass" is a word. I hadn't known that.
Apparently, "stick one's oar in" is an idiom. I hadn't known that.
And, remember those discussions we've had about my wheelhouse? If not, I'll give you a clue: France is not in it. The 16th century is not in it. And poetry is not in it. Therefore, 16th century French poets are certainly not in it. Pierre de Who? Mensard, right?

But yup, THE NET was a gimme here, too.

Anonymous 8:24 AM  

Not an easy one for me at all; it felt like Wednesday's puzzle, and my time reflected it. But when all is said and done, it was an eminently fair and well done puzzle from PB and fun to do, albeit slowly. Perhaps part of the problem was never having heard of a bulls eye lantern, though I've seen them--I wanted railroad-- and having bombs instead of TANKS for 22A.

Unknown 8:25 AM  

I looked at the clues for the long answers first, tentatively popped in bullseye lantern and confirmed it with tidbit, and continued to solve from the inside out.
I think being very familiar with the D&D equipment lists helped me with that lantern: the bullseye costs much more gold than the standard.
A very enjoyable Friday.

Bob Kerfuffle 8:30 AM  

Agree with Ruth and Greene; I had some hesitation entering AMA as "Practice overseers". Not that I have any inside knowledge of the subject. I only learned in all the recent coverage of the health care system that the AMA was a distinct minority of doctors.

Otherwise, another fine puzzle from Patrick Berry.

I thought my 23 minutes had bought me a perfect completion, but I learn from Rex that 45 A is OAR, not EAR. Never heard the expression, and PIERREDERENSARD sounded just as good as PIERREDERONSARD.

joho 8:38 AM  

Count me in as one who's never heard the expression "Put in one's OAR." I, too, had eAR as in, "He put a rumor about Rex in Will's ear that really messed things up." Makes sense to me.

That was my only error. I didn't think this was easy but definitely a "romp" compared to the last couple of days.

I thought the Grim Reaper carried a SCYTHE.

Ben 8:50 AM  

Enjoyable puzzle but too easy for a Friday.

@Joho, agreed. I picture Father Time as a Gandalf type carrying an hourglass.

retired_chemist 8:51 AM  

Liked it. More medium than easy here.

Lots of clues I needed to mull over. Wanted DUGONG for SEA COW because MANATEE didn't fit. Don't know South Park at all well, so KENNY was harder for me than for some of us. A wrong 39D had D??N?, so I tried DUANE. Wrong....

One I do not understand is 1A CADS. Why are they repeat offenders? All offenders are potential repeaters, CADS no more so than others, so why clue with repeat?

David 8:53 AM  

Finally after two difficult days week - a puzzle that rewards logic when knowledge is lacking!

Based on scant evidence, PIERRE seems like a good way to start the name of a French poet, who for all I know could have created a lighter (RONSARD?).

And DEFENSELESSNESS was just one of those works that kept on flowing once the first few letters fell into place. And how many MAJAs are in Goya's works?

Have a good Friday, everyone.

retired_chemist 8:55 AM  

Father Time apparently carries a scythe, or an hourglass, or both.

joho 9:03 AM  

I think he should be carrying a calendar.

imsdave 9:13 AM  

@SethG - thank you for writing most of my post for me.

Medium for me, with the RO of RONSARD/OAR/RID fame taking me a long time to figure out.

Luke 9:19 AM  

As I was doing this last night, I wondered what it would be like to solve a Friday puzzle having had so few missteps that it would be easy to jot them down/remember them the next morning to write about them. I still don't know.

Spent about 5 minutes trying to force something to the end of AMERICANINDIEBAND_. Could not get rid of AID instead of RID, quite logically, as I knew that one may be embarrassed by a lack of funds, not that one could be embarrassed by having an impediment in one's way. Totally blanked at 64A, actually went to look at yesterday's comments hoping that Meg's avatar would spring Manatee loose from the recesses of my mind.

Then, what everyone said about 16th Century French Poets, Pop culture, etc.

nanpilla 9:20 AM  

My hand is up for eAR for Oar, also. Once I got cookie and kerosene out of there, the rest of the puzzle really did just flow. A nice little confidence booster.

Kept thinking grim reaper after putting in scythe - but I didn't eat the mousse!

fikink 9:22 AM  

Mason's assistant, I could only think of mortar and building fireplaces It took me the longest time to remember Della.

@tptsteve - like your avatar. Does "tpt" refer to trumpet?

@bobkerfuffle & Joho, I had "ear" for OAR also.

@R_C, I think CADS are men who repeatedly treat women badly. That is how I read it anywqy.

Cassanova 9:22 AM  

@R_C - I think CADdom requires a pattern of behavior. You dump one girl for another once, well that's life. Making it your M.O., then you become a cad.

Elaine 9:22 AM  

I rate this Medium at best; it did NOT flow for me, despite starting well with CIA and ABS. I had CRIB for cheat slang and BOMBS for a box office failure, ARRIBA before ANDALE; I got MINEO from the clue alone, but then thought, "Nah." Hand up for DUGONG (rhymes with WRONG)...and ABA. Sheesh.

South Park, hoary old French poets, discontinued autos? None of those are my strong suits. I even tried to google the Chevy model and got nowhere.

Despite getting large segments of the puzzle, including PIERRE and the long answers, I give myself a Fail. I went back to bed after the solve in order to recover.

Also: "Put in one's OAR" is an old expression, rather like "giving one's two-cents'-worth." Did anyone else not know what a "French dip" was? I had to look it up later. I mean, don't they just use sour cream with soup mix like everyone else?

retired_chemist 9:39 AM  

@ Luke - There is an archaic sense of embarrass which means "hamper or impede." I suspect that somehow the sense of disembarrassed which clues RID relates somehow.

Spanish for "pregnant" is embarazada. When a woman gives birth she "rids" herself of the baby inside. Definitely not PC and maybe not even right. Just a hunch here.

Unknown 9:51 AM  

Had I taken French Literature while working on my graduate degree, I, too, might rate this one Easy. However, even seeing his bust in a Chateau in the Loire Valley did not bring him to mind. Only after every cross did I realize I had at least heard the name albeit without a context.
My father knew practically every idiom known and used them to confound his children. His life was idiomatic.
I liked the SHROUD over the Titanic where settled in the depths was a SEACOW.
I thought we would get a bit more discussion on the LETTER thorn, at least from our medievalist. The/Ye transpositions reflect its usage.

Rex Parker 9:53 AM  

Looks like PIERRE DE RONSARD is a major dividing line today. It is, by far, the most-searched clue at my site already today. The most-searched clue is almost Never a same-day clue (usu. something out of syndication).

Hobbyist 9:57 AM  

I loved the way that "as far as I can tell" ran to as far as it could within the grid and the bullseye placed in the center. I did think that "narked" ought to have been "narced" but a small point.

Very clever puzzle in all.

Jon 10:00 AM  

The only thing more ego-shriveling than getting my ass completely kicked up and down by a puzzle is coming here and reading that this one was easy--even too easy--for most. Gulp. I guess I still have a long way to go. I take solace in the fact that Wed. was actually a quicker solve than normal for me, and Thursday was just a hair above average.

But onto this beast: I ended with one ugly mistake (EAR for OAR, having absolutely no clue who M. de Ronsard was), and that middle...Good lord. Maybe my brain wasn't firing properly, but I just couldn't see any of those synonymic clues. HASTEN, REEL IN, ERASER and elsewhere, SHROUD, LETTER, ELATES, RASHES....It took me waaaaaay too long to see those. BULLSEYE LANTERN I had never heard of, I put in ARRIBA for a long time where ANDALE belonged...I guess I was just on a different wavelength, because this was my longest Friday solve in weeks, if not months.

Van55 10:18 AM  

This one was far from a romp for me.

I agree with those who don't like the clung for AMA.

I am not sure why "weak heart" = THREE. Is a reference to the three of hearts as a playing card? If so, that's pretty obsdure.

I had LOO at first for John no one knows.

Loved the clue for IRS.

foodie 10:20 AM  

If you're in France and someone asks: "Je vous débarrasse?" (Shall I disembarrass you?) it likely means: Shall I take your coat? Or they might ask it in a restaurant about cleaning the table after a meal, etc. This immediately let me guess RID.

French also came to the rescue with RONSARD. Like Rex, I did not know his full name. The rest was not so obvious. Definitely a medium for me. I admired the elegant construction and the fact that the 3 letter words were all for real, OAR, PRY, SPY, NAG, JUS, ASS, DOE, etc.. Even the abbrevations were all too real, e.g. IRS. Coupled with the elegant crossing of the 15mers, a beautiful, classic puzzle!

slypett 10:33 AM  

Slow-going for me, at first. Suddenly caught fire and burned this baby up.

British slang for 'police informant' is 'copper's nark'.

CADS has not yet been explained, as the clue has a '?'.

I suspected RONSARD straight off, but didn't remember his forename.

PlantieBea 10:36 AM  

The top two thirds of this were no problem but I messed up the bottom with two errors. Count me in the EAR for OAR group. I also had Raja/Rineo in the MAJA/MINEO spot. Oh well, win some, lose some.

Ulrich 10:40 AM  

@ret-ch.: Could you do this link again? b/c I, too, did not associate Father Time with a scythe, only an hour glass, and @joho, yes, a calendar makes much more sense these days, and I want to see some evidence that angels predominantly wear white...the only angels I ever saw were in a hospital, and they wore green, of a particularly unattractive hue...

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, Friday puzzles are unpredictably difficult and sometimes exceed Saturdays in the average solve time. I suspect that this puzzle will rate slightly above average on time when we get our useful report from sanfranman. The NYT site shows the top solvers are pretty much on form (5 to 6 minutes), but the next tier are taking longer. I think Rex is correct, if you know French Renaissance Poets that are seldom translated for the US readers, then you will do well. The fact that I figured it out says to me that the crosses were helpful and the editing excellent.
I got the THREE of hearts, but in my bridge circle, we call it the trey.


Glitch 10:50 AM  


A French dip sandwich, also known as a beef dip, is a hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef (or, sometimes, other meats) on a "French roll" or baguette. It is most commonly served au jus ("with juice"), that is, with a few ounces of beef juice collected during cooking.

For more click here: Is the French Dip sandwitch French?


Dave in California 10:51 AM  

My only problem was difficulty giving up on Arriba. At a certain point I realized it must be Andale instead, but as a Francofile I needed the crosses to spell it right...

GenJoneser 10:55 AM  

Seeing RUBBER for ERASER takes me back to being 18 and interning for a Labour MP in the British Parliament. First assignment "Would you get me a box of rubbers, love? Cheers." My teenage brain went to only one place as my face reddened noticeably. Talk about "two countries separated by a common language." Nice puzzle though I'm with the Medium folks.

Two Ponies 11:04 AM  

Hey, who are you calling a nerd?
Oh wait, that would be me.

Very enjoyable, as usual, from Mr. Berry.
The helpful crosses gave me things I did not know. I was unable to disembarrass myself from that pesky E so count me in the ear-for-oar crowd. It was so much fun that I don't care about the error.
Great clue for shiner.
@ Elaine, a French Dip is a roast beef sandwich you dip in au jus.

Jim in Chicago 11:08 AM  

@Jon. Don't feel bad, we all have days where our ability to solve a particular puzzle varies widely from the norm. I occasionally speed through a Saturday, only to find it graded "difficult". And, with time I am certainly getting better.

@GenJoneser. MY rubber story is overhearing someone leaving a building on a rainy day loudly announce that he had to go back to the lobby to retieve his rubbers, much to the hilarity of the staff at large.

I actually met Della Street. Late in his life Raymond Burr opened a winery in Sonoma (still in operation, BTW) and Della was at one of their early wine events. Very nice person.

MY problem today is with the concept that the Thorn is obsolete. In English, maybe, but there are still Thorns in Icelandic, among other languages. They were the bane of my existence when I spent some time trying to mush Icelandic text into an English database and the program kept barfing on the Thorns.

mac 11:09 AM  

This was a Medium for me too. At one point I had everything on the outsides and a large white bull's eye in the middle.

A very good, classic puzzle. Liked the clues for 29D, 11A and 44A, but would still like to find out what the thorn/letter and the Elite/carriage trade are about exactly.

What a word: defenselessness! I guess a constructor's dream.

Elaine 11:11 AM  

Thanks...though I did mention I looked this up later. At breakfast I asked my (Yankee) husband if he knew what a "French dip" was-- and he did. Reminds me of our trip to Erie, PA, where "Beef on Wick" is a common menu item. Had never heard of it! Nor had my CENTRAL Pennsylvanian hubby.

a C followed by i or e usually is "soft"--i.e., sounds like S. It is common to add a K (picnicked) or just substitute one for the C in this situation. FWIW, this did not assist me with the solve, as I do not know South Park. Benny? Lenny? Denny?

All y'all who are callin' this EASY are heading for a fall, as in "Pride goeth before ....." (Points to those who get the quote RIGHT)

Smitty 11:11 AM  

@Rex I bet you're right about PIERRE DE RONSARD being the great divider.
I was on the wrong side -
I gave up on the east coast after:
Another hand up for EAR
BEG instead of PRY
THROB for weak heart
RACY instead of EDGY

Elsewhere I corrected but fell into every single trap
also had ARRIBA instead of ANDALE
CHEW for GNAW (after first having BITE)

and what's up with CAD???

Came here limping and panting today...

joho 11:13 AM  

Anybody ever enjoy a French Dip at Phillipe's in LA? My parents used to take me there when I was a little kid and I've never forgotten it.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

I've never commented before, but today I must. After yesterday's really fun puzzle I was looking forward to today's only to be disappointed. Did Will get his dates mixed up? This is more like a Wednesday version. Dull and boring, but I did learn about Ronsard.

Denise Ann 11:27 AM  

Easy? Not for me!!
But I did finish.
Thanks for the Perry Mason theme -- I have been watching the movies on the Hallmark Channel. They have every possible way for him to be sitting and other people come to him. The plots are interesting too.

retired_chemist 11:29 AM  

@ Ulrich:

Father Time apparently carries a scythe, or an hourglass, or both.

Sorry, don't know what happened. Other Father Time references can be googled and also show a scythe.

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

@fikink- Thanks. I just added it the other day, and yes, tpt refers to the trumpet.

I loved the Mason's assistant clue. I have a bunch of PM paperbacks that I took from my grandmother's house decades ago. Fun reads.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:37 AM  

@Elaine -

Thanks for the challenge. My pride may be destroyed, (long ago, actually), but my knowledge is increased.

Alice in SF 11:38 AM  

@GenJoneser. My first thought for 24A was Trojan which would have fit but didn't think it was "fit" for a Times puzzle.

I knew it; I knew it that Rex would find this puzzle unchallenging because I sped through it without Googling. Just a few minor errors--ABA for AMA (57D) which left me with a strange sounding Chevy. Got pry (11A) but missed role and three (a low heart card). At least my husband was impressed that I got through it so easily as he didn't hear my usual cry of despair on Friday--"Am I supposed to know this?"

Ruth 11:42 AM  

@Elaine, "Beef on a Wick" (or Weck) is a Buffalo thing, and Erie is close enough for it to spread there. The roll is called a "kimmelwick", basically a seeded-and-salted Kaiser roll. Very good, but not health food.
And yup, I had ARRIBA and EAR for oar and a bunch of the other missteps pointed out above. Wouldn't call this easy.

Anonymous 11:43 AM  

I looked up Ronsard after I had it -- to check spelling. What got me was 'hose' for 'cheat'. That was a new one to me, but it's in that authoritative "Urban Dictionary". From its index, everything looks to be in the Urban Dictionary. And I'm not a Tolkien person so I have no clue what a Sauron is, but an ORC I know from the one movie of the trilogy I saw and crosswords.

OldCarFudd 11:48 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyable. Didn't know the French poet, but did know oar, which saved me from a mistake when I guessed de Ronsard's name.

I never knew most doctors weren't in the AMA. Neither did my wife; she's a clinical psychologist, and thought the AMA was a licensing group for MDs the way the American Psychological Association is for psychologists.

@Ulrich - I hope shortening retired_chemist to ret_ch isn't intended as a comment!

mitchs 11:49 AM  

Rex, I've been a lurker on this blog for months but my stomach hurts from laughter at your Perry Mason video/caption, so I wanted to thank/blame you.

Howard B 11:51 AM  

Same here for OAR/EAR. They seemed equally viable phrases, and the crossing name was a "Guess-a-vowel" situation.

Speaking of, if you found RONSARD to be a 'gimme' or at least a familiar answer, then it definitely put you on another level, as far as this puzzle was conerned. Other than that, the rest of the puzzle was smooth or at least solvable via crossings, but certainly didn't feel too easy nor too hard. Very nice work.

chefbea 11:59 AM  

I thought this was hard. had to google a lot.

@hudson Hawk. it's the chocolate chip that is a tidbit
not the cookie itself.

I too had ear for oar.

JC66 12:07 PM  

Grim Reaper

Father Time

lit.doc 12:15 PM  

Medium+ for me. Had enough dead-from-the-starts for a mass-casualty incident: BOMBS and FLOPS before TANKS, WAY and EAR before OAR (huh?), RACY before EDGY, NETTLE before LETTER (huh?!) and ¡ARRIBA! before ANDALE, et al. Puzzlement = well-constructed puzzle, though.

But the puzz just didn't have enough TRAPs built in, so I constructed a few of my own. Ignoring the absence of a "?", I assumed that "carriage trade" had to do with posture in some way. Was equally certain that "White robe wearers" had to do with the KKK. And Worst of Show goes to 7D where, as soon as I got RAISE I thought hmmm, must be one of the several Hellraiser sequels I avoided seeing. Yes, folks, 7D was written by Clive Barker.

Was totally HOSEed by 6D, which IMO ought to have been clued by something to do with getting screwed. Figuratively. And 39D shoulda been NARC'D. That one killed Kenny for several episodes.

Plenty of nice aha'ish cluing as well. Loved "Weak heart, for example?" and "Words that affect one's standing?" especially. When I eventually got them.

Ulrich 12:20 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
treedweller 12:27 PM  

I agree this was easy for Friday, except [insert SethG's post here]. Right down to googling "Pierre de Mensard" when I knew it was down to a couple of guesses. Which is despite feeling RID was the best guess for "disembarrass."

But now I think I will try to find excuses to tell people to keep their oars out of my business.

xyz 12:28 PM  

I don't finish these yet without tons of help but got a few today. MOre to learn, got a couple of the 15letter ones, yipee for me, we all have our victories, some not too exciting to others


AMA comments make me laugh as the real pracice overseers in US Medicine are now MBA's

Ulrich 12:30 PM  

@Ret_chem.: My apologies (cf. OldCarFudd)

@Ruth: "kimmelwick" seems to derive from German Kümmel (caraway seeds, also a flavored Schnaps--I can't stand either) and Weck (a roll, sort of)

...and with this, I've used up my 3 vouchers

Unknown 12:31 PM  

Thanks for educating me re: Thorn/letter and cricket/test. Everything else was pretty easy, amazingly, even Pierre de Ronsard (where could that have come from?).

archaeoprof 12:36 PM  

What a strong first week for 2010!

I leave tomorrow for 3 weeks in Israel and Jordan with a group of students. See you all when I get back!

randis mcgee 12:36 PM  

The grid today is absolutely stunning. It's rotationally symmetric at 90 degree rotations as well and the black spaces are all two wide. Quite a feat.

hazel 12:59 PM  

@randis mcgee, right on! first thing I noticed too - well, just the stunning part - not all the details. Reminded me of a Mondrian.

I liked this puzzle, and got the RONSARD (albeit through deduction), but gave up on his neighbors KENNY and ADRIAN a little too quickly (Blast your easy ways and omniscience, Google!).

Nice cozy puzzle.

Nick 1:05 PM  

Easy? Really? This was one of the hardest Fridays in recent memory for me. Finished with 1 error, which isn't bad since I had no idea who Pierre De Ronsard is. (I know yesterday's was tougher, but that was so far off the difficulty mark for a Thursday that I'm not even counting it.)

ArtLvr 1:30 PM  

Wonderful BULL'S EYE puzzle -- it flowed rather slowly for me last night, but I got there with no time-outs.

Some of my initial misstarts were:
MUDDER for Mason's assistANT

I knew "Put in one's OAR", but the clue would have been less tricky as the usual "Put one's ___ in": no one would think of Ear! And EDDA would have been easier if the clue included "Icelandic" or "Norse", but it's Friday...

@ Van55 -- A weak heart Opening Bid in bridge is THREE in many systems, as One would indicate normal opening count and Two would be stronger than normal. Three indicates a long heart suit with less strength (i.e.fewer high cards) overall.

@ archeoprof -- Wow, have a great trip!


Anonymous 1:33 PM  

@archeoprof- Have a great trip. Just returned from 17 days there, including Petra. Absolutely amazing stuff to see.

Tinbeni 1:44 PM  

After last Friday whooping, I initially cringed at the thought of todays offering, esp.with the Wed.Thur.increase in difficulty.

When I got stumpted, change of direction time. Can't believe I finished.

Our SEACOWs are huddled up near the power plants for warmth.
It is cold even here in Florida.
AS FAR AS I CAN TELL, it's that global warming trend all over the USA.

ArtLvr 2:04 PM  

p.s. re MUDDER -- You may not find the word in most dictionaries, either as a racehorse loving a muddy track or as a Mason or his assistant -- but if you want a belly laugh, please google "mason's mudder" and check out the first entry there!


ArtLvr 2:26 PM  

p.p.s. re: RONSARD's patron, Charles IX of France --

"The sickly King Charles IX of France (1550-1574) was a mentally unstable sadist with mad rages. As he grew up, he became so violent that courtiers genuinely feared for their lives. Once, he savagely attacked his sister with his fists. During the festivities of her marriage Charles gave the order to murder thousands of protestants in the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Still, Charles was a mother’s boy, who even after attaining his majority, continued to refer major decisions to his dominant mother, Catherine de' Medici..."

He plays an pivotal role in Barbara Tuchman's masterpiece "A Distant Mirror", which foreshadows many of the ills of out own century with constant wars (religious and otherwise), plagues, terrorists, and consequent economic disaster for large portions of the popuation.


Van55 2:32 PM  

@ArtLvr --

I am a bridge player and know that a three heart opening bid would normally be preemtive -- indicating length in the heart suit but a point count of about 10 or 11 (usually). For me, that doesn't help much, making the clue for the answer even more arcane than my supposition that the trey of hearts is a "weak heart" in most card games. That said, the three of hearts is not necessarily week if it is in the trump suit in bridge.

It's odd to me that some of the cluing for this puzzle was deliberatly obtuse (e.g. weak heart and thorn once) while some of it is very straight forward. It had me looking for word tricks where there were none, making my solve more difficult. Maybe that was the contstructof's intent.

Tinbeni 2:42 PM  

Your last paragraph stated it perfectly.
After last Fridays thrashing, and the Wed.& Thur. hard puzzles this week. I kept thinking, as I solved a straight forward clues answer, maybe I'm missing something,
Though I thought the "weak heart" was cleaver. Probably a Poker thing.

JC66 2:49 PM  

@ArtLvr said...

My bridge playing days ended years ago, so I had forgotten the Weak Heart Convention. I just thought the THREE of Hearts was weak, compared to the Ace, King, etc. Thanks for the reminder.

treedweller 2:49 PM  

Re: weak heart
Like it or not, this is a pretty standard clue/answer. I can imagine seeing the answer as two up to, say, five, and have also seen trey, making deuce likely at some point. And even if hearts were trump, the three would be a weak one--just not as weak as any card in another suit.

Shamik 2:51 PM  

At 19:30 this put me in the medium-challenging arena for Friday's. What a slog! And ended up with one error: THROE for weak heart...and ROLO could be any obscure game. Well,it could happen. After finishing and reading the blog, I still had to google THORN and letter. WTF! And some of you all just trippy-trapped through this puzzle like a day in the park? Yikes.

In and then out:

A real slog today. Real slog. I'll blame it on the coughs and sneezes.

bluebell 2:54 PM  

We just had our third (minor) earthquake in as many days in the Bay Area; that is my definition of defenselessness.

This was not an easy puzzle for me; muddled through with the help of Google.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

@Two Ponies said...


@ Elaine, a French Dip is a roast beef sandwich you dip in au jus.


I'll hide behind anonymity to criticize another blogger, but this is a pet peeve. As @Glitch said earlier,


A French dip sandwich, also known as a beef dip, is a hot sandwich consisting of thinly sliced roast beef (or, sometimes, other meats) on a "French roll" or baguette. It is most commonly served au jus ("with juice"), that is, with a few ounces of beef juice collected during cooking.


You cannot dip a roast beef sandwich in "au jus," no matter how many menus get it wrong.


Shamik 3:09 PM  

When I was a very little girl, the theme song to Perry Mason frightened me and I used to beg my father to change the channel just until the song was over. LOL at Rex's caption regarding this opening!

SueRohr 3:14 PM  

This was a really hard puzzle for me. I worked and worked, finally gave in and googled, and still couldn't finish. Couldn't get bulls eye lantern. Had hustle for hasten forever.Had no clue about Atilla or Ronsard. Thought the scythe was a sickle. It goes on and on. Just couldn't get a handle on it. I still don't understand the thorns clue. Oh well, can't win em all.

PlantieBea 3:18 PM  

@SueRohr: Regarding thorn and letter, from Wikipedia,

"Thorn, or þorn (Þ, þ), is a letter in the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic alphabets. It was also used in medieval Scandinavia, but was later replaced with the digraph th. The letter originated from the rune ᚦ in the Elder Fuþark, called thorn in the Anglo-Saxon and thorn or thurs ("Thor"[1], "giant") in the Scandinavian rune poems, its reconstructed Proto-Germanic name being *Thurisaz."

chefbea 3:26 PM  

@anon 3:05 I beg to differ. Of course you can dip a roast beef sandwich in jus . You are usually served a small cup of jus with the sandwich.

edith b 3:27 PM  

Freud once said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I think the weak heart clue is just straightforwardly deceptive - if that concept even exists - and has no relationship to bridge or poker.

My mind tied me up in circles before I became aware that maybe it just represented a weak card in the heart suit. Sometimes I'm just too clever by half.

edmcan 3:38 PM  

Thank God for today's puzzle; I don't feel like such a nitwit today.

Jim in Chicago 3:42 PM  

Using my second posting of the day to remark that a sandwich being served "with au jus" makes my teeth hurt just as much as when the server announces that "the soup du jour is xxx TODAY"

au 3:48 PM  

it's as if I'm not even there . . .

Clark 4:09 PM  

Hearing someone say "with au jus" or "in au jus" always makes me laugh -- a hearty, sympathetic laugh. It's one of those things that ends up happening when a word or phrase from one language comes into another one.

Heidegger coins a term 'das Man,' which can come into English as 'the anyone' or 'the they', or as I prefer, just as 'das Man.' Sometime, I find myself saying "the 'das Man' self . . ." when I am talking Heidegger. I know that 'the das' [the the] is crazy, but it is the easiest way to make clear in English that the 'Man' sound I am uttering is part of the term 'das Man'.

So I say, order yourself a roast beef sandwich with au jus and enjoy it heartily. Take it home even, and eat it reclining on a chaise lounge.

Glitch 4:15 PM  

The reason I brought up the French dip sandwich is I had recently seen a story on its history.

@Chefbea (and any others interested)

In short, the "proper" FD sandwich is "dipped" before serving.

The "jus" served on the side is extra, and optional, much as any condiment would be.

The true French dip is more of a technique than item, requiring neither beef nor a side of "jus", a Roast beef sandwich dipped in jus is just a soggy RB sandwich ;)

Clicking on the link in my 10:50 am post gives the full story.


PS: Dang, can never predict what will start an exchange!

Elaine 4:22 PM  

Stop, stop! As I wrote: I LOOKED IT UP LATER! I now know what French Dip is, and will happily avoid it if on the menu.
Anony-person was objecting to the "AU jus" usage. As I'm sure you know, it's incorrect to say one dips the sandwich "in au jus."

Thanks to all who sought to enlighten me; actually I HAVE EATEN "Beef on Wick," then looked up recipes on the Internet, and baked my own Kimmelwick. Kinda fun. It's interesting to learn about these little pockets of regional/ethnic foods. Would you believe you can get Czech specialties near Waco, Texas? (You can take Conversational Czech at the local college,too.) Just so you know, DO NOT order "sweet kraut;" they have put brown sugar in the sauerkraut. Deadly.

Unknown 4:22 PM  

there are two majas in goya. one nude and one dressed.

Les 4:28 PM  

@Au - Sorry guy (gal?), I can't imagine your pain of being continuously ignored. But the fact is, you just got no juice!

Two Ponies 4:36 PM  

All of this jus talk reminds me of a friend who wanted a bowl of what was labeled "au jus" in a buffet. He kept insisting until the server finally said "It ain't soup, bub."
We still laugh about it.

Two Ponies 4:39 PM  

P.S. I do know what au means but in the context of English jus by itself looks like a typo and might not be understood.

SethG 4:52 PM  

Isn't the rule that if something is "in the language" than it's fine for the puzzle? For this I trust Arby's, which serves more French Dip sandwiches than any other restaurant in America. And Arby says to dip the sandwich in their "generous portion of hot, savory au jus", and the menu includes "a side of au jus for dipping".

And you know why they call it that? Because of the metric system.

For more info, see the The French Dip Review.

C 4:58 PM  

Prepared for the worse with this puzzle but it never appeared. Freely admit that I have never heard of the Poet so made the Oar/Ear gaff but otherwise a smooth puzzle.

mac 5:08 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glitch 5:24 PM  


Never said the puzzle clue was "unfair", in fact it was darn accurate in its briefness.

As far as Arby's, I prefer their Philly Cheese Steak which is as true to the original as is their French Dip ;)

As for your link, just shows there's somewhere on the web to support any position.


Don't be paranoid, you were excused from this thread as of your 11:11am post ;)

3 and out, [off to heat up a can of Chef Boyardee's Ravioli in the microwave --- love authentic Italian home cooking.]


Anonymous 5:25 PM  

Love how Imus crosses ass with cads on top as a hat. Guess Patrick Beryy doesn't like him much.

edith b 5:28 PM  


I don't know how I missed your 2:49post making the same point about the weak heart clue as I did.

Sorry. I need to pay a little more attention.

Miles Inada 5:34 PM  

I think Elite/Carriage Trade has to do with switching between "Elite" and "Pica" carriages on typewriters of yore.

Anonymous 5:37 PM  

The au jus discussion reminds me of the common use of "hoi polloi" as "the hoi polloi."

jae 5:42 PM  

Most of this one was easier for me than Wed.'s SW corner. I'd give it an easy-medium. That said, add me to the EAR group. ADRIAN, KENNY, STREET, MINEO, and even DABO from yesterday, all gimmies, not so much for french poets. I could defend my literature cred by noting that the Cussler novel was also a gimme but I'm pretty sure that's not literature.

chefwen 5:47 PM  

I'm with @seth in his wheelhouse, Pierre who? Really slogged through this one, had a much more enjoyable time with the ANTS of yesterday.

Poor Kenny, always bleeding to death.

Had a French Dip sandwich for lunch yesterday, it was delish, and yes, I did dip it in the stuff.

chefwen 5:48 PM  

@archeoprof - Have a safe journey.

Martin 6:06 PM  

The verb nark is English slang, with citations in the OED from 1859. It derives from a Romany (Gypsy) word for "nose." To this day, when a Brit touches his nose it means "keep this secret."

Most dictionaries include this verb, but only show "narc" as a noun. The narcotics-based American slang and nark are converging but the dictionaries haven't blended them yet.

Meg 6:20 PM  

Most questions I had have now been answered. So thanks!

I guess I was the only one to enter MORSEL for TIDBIT. So proud. So wrong.

A soggy roast beef sandwich is especially good when the beef is dry and chewy.

Still don't quite get ELITE for "Carriage trade". Somehow the typewriter explanation doesn't work. You don't (didn't) switch out the entire carriage, just the ball. Looked it up. Carriage trade = Wealthy patrons or customers, as of a store.

Stay warm!

Martin 6:40 PM  

"Carriage trade" refers to customers who entered a store via the carriage entrance rather than the main entrance that pedestrians used. Think of it as a side door exclusively for limousines 100 years ago. Upscale shops had them so wealthy customers could be dropped off by their drivers and not have to mingle with riff raff.

The San Francisco Opera House still refers to their side entrance as the "carriage entrance," although now it's more of a taxi stand.

Anonymous 6:52 PM  

I found this of equal difficulty as Wednesday and Thursday, but a lot less enjoyable. I was glad to see that I was not alone with "ear" and lack of knowledge of Pierre de Rensard. But even "bullseye lantern" was news to me and I was unsure of the second l even after getting all the other letters. I obviously have to learn more about South Park; knowing Kenny would have made the SW (which I didn't completely get) a lot easier. I had narced and kept trying to think of a name that went C--NY.

Bill from NJ 6:53 PM  

In urban areas during the 19th century when street cars were becoming public transportation, the wealthy hired carraiges to transport them into the city and thus avoided rubbing shoulders with the hoi-polloi. "Carraige trade" came to be the term used to describe rich people who could afford to hire such transportation.

Primarily used in New York, Chicago and Boston.

JaneW 7:17 PM  

Was I the only one who wrote in ALIGHT for 25A? I filled it in early and stuck to it way too long, causing a lot of problems for myself. Moral: Just because ALIT is crosswordese doesn't mean the present tense of the verb is similarly popular.

Greg Clinton 7:48 PM  

I tried very hard to remember the M*A*S*H episode where Colonel Potter dressed as Father Time three (?) consecutive years for New Year's Eve. I just couldn't remember what props were involved other than his fake long white beard.

Greg Clinton 7:56 PM  

Was able to come up with STREET, as both Della and Lois stirrings from my youth had staying power.

joho 8:08 PM  

So, I guess nobody's ever eaten at Phillipe's.

Godspeed @archeoprof!

Squeek 8:22 PM  

@ joho, I guess I'll never try that sandwich because
I never go to CA much less LA because I smoke. I refuse to go any place that treats me like a leper.

Great puzzle today. French poet? Huh?
Good thing he was named Pierre.
Speaking of French now I see that not only do I have to know French to do the froggin' puzzles but I need it to blog too! I don't know if I'm cosmopolitan enough to hang au this crowd.

Anonymous 8:41 PM  

@Squeek said... Is your name the one hears when you breath?

Squeek 8:59 PM  

See what I mean?

foodie 9:08 PM  

@Archeoprof, hey, guess what? I'm off to Amman tomorrow pm and then to Syria! May be we can exchange crossword hints across the Dead Sea!

Have fun. I'd love to learn more someday about what you're discovering in my neck of the desert.

mac 9:19 PM  

@Archeoprof: safe travels, and enjoy the trip!

Poor Squeek...

mac 9:21 PM  

@Foodie: same to you! Will you be back in time for Brooklyn???

lit.doc 9:30 PM  

@Meg, @Martin, and et al., thanks for driving a stake through the heart of that "carriage trade" thread.

Tried to avoid the dust-up re "au jus", but have caved under the preasure of Jameson's. It's an etymological commonplace for phrases from other languages to come into Enlish functioning as compound nouns. This is one beauty of the language, beautifully captured by the subtitle of an excellent book (the title of which I've since forgotten, sadly): "A Second-Rate Language That Slept Its Way to the Top".

lit.doc 9:30 PM  

@Meg, @Martin, and et al., thanks for driving a stake through the heart of that "carriage trade" thread.

Tried to avoid the dust-up re "au jus", but have caved under the preasure of Jameson's. It's an etymological commonplace for phrases from other languages to come into Enlish functioning as compound nouns. This is one beauty of the language, beautifully captured by the subtitle of an excellent book (the title of which I've since forgotten, sadly): "A Second-Rate Language That Slept Its Way to the Top".

lit.doc 9:32 PM  

Can't believe I just mispeled "pressure". Geez. Don't drink and text. Three and out.

sanfranman59 10:12 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:37, 6:55, 0.96, 41%, Medium
Tue 9:31, 8:46, 1.09, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 17:27, 12:08, 1.44, 99%, Challenging
Thu 30:44, 19:20, 1.59, 99%, Challenging
Fri 26:12, 26:00, 1.01, 57%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:22, 3:40, 0.92, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:32, 4:29, 1.01, 60%, Medium
Wed 8:21, 5:57, 1.40, 96%, Challenging
Thu 15:58, 9:21, 1.71, 100%, Challenging
Fri 13:08, 12:30, 1.05, 72%, Medium-Challenging

For some reason, the top 100 had more trouble with today's puzzle than the masses (relative to their usual Friday solve times).

foodie 10:17 PM  

@mac, thanks! I will be back in the country but not in Brooklyn. I wish I could meet all of you, but I've been traveling so much for family reasons, I need to get back home and earn a living.

@lit.doc: I love your substituting preasure (pleasure?) of Jameson's for pressure. As Freud would say: your brain is showing. Enjoy!

In spite of my nom de blog, I've avoided getting involved in the "au jus" discussion, as well. But I thought it was fun/funny. Sometimes, things remind me of the smile of the Cheshire cat in Alice in wonderland... they remain when you expect them to disappear. It's intriguing.

@Sanfranman: medium/challenging sounds good to me!

Julie 10:38 PM  

Weak heart, for example, = three? I don't get that.

Glitch 10:58 PM  

Sneaking back in (it's late, when the rules bend) I wanted to make a last comment on "au jus".

Good Clue, proper answer, no problem.

Just tried to point out in my first (responding) post that jus "on the side" was not the "jus" refrenced in the clue.

The many who who claim they get their French dip sandwich with the jus on the side do, but it's no longer the classic French Dip (which isn't even French) any more than canned ravioli is classic Italian.

"With au jus" ranks up there with "Chili con Carne, with meat", also seen on menus, also redundant.
Don't believe all you "see" on a menu, or as Rex put it: "Minimal fact-checking is greatly appreciated. (7/24/09)"


PS: Today's bridge "weak three" discussion is, perhaps, equally arcane --- but that's what this blog is all about (maybe) ;>)


sanfranman59 11:18 PM  

@Julie ... think playing cards ... in many card games, a three is a low (or weak) card. Thus, a three of hearts would be a weak heart. A somewhat tricky clue, but typical for a late week NYT puzzle. One must be aware of multiple meanings on Fridays and Saturdays.

lit.doc 11:39 PM  

@foodie, LOL. You are sooo write on.

slypett 11:54 PM  

After long deliberation, I've decided to weigh in on the 'au jus' contretemps. 'Au' (en francçais) means 'to the'. Thus, it is the masculine eqivalent of 'á la'. It does not mean 'with', as several of us have come to believe, but (idiomatically)'in juice', cooked in meat stock or served in dish gravy.

In my case, this was brought on by excesss of the simplest cocktail--the grand martini.

Tinbeni 12:01 AM  

Have you ever thought of the diversion of ... Scotch?

Jamesons is OK, but as you and I have conversed ... 15yo+ will always melt the brain.

lit.doc 12:32 AM  

@Tinbeni, if you're reading this it means either that the three-and-out filter isn't working or I'm too effed up to count. Re Scotch, yes, my late wife was most fond of it. Attended many a Scotch tasting. Remain steadfast in my catholic tastes (I can't resist cheap word play).

@Darkman, call me simple, but I thought the simplest cocktail was high-quality distilled liquor (HDL), neat.

andrea andale michaels 12:54 AM  

Me, too! Put in THROE and hoped ROLO was a game I hadn't heard of!
All was in balance, bec I had EAR, so
I had all the right letters, just not in the right places.

As for JUS, I went thru the alphabet three times before giving up and leaving it blank!
(I thought maybe it was a MAMA who was nude...but couldn't accept MUS)

(My therapist would say that perhaps I should concentrate on the 98% I got right...)

Quietly absorbing the knowledge that Squeek smokes AND won't ever come to CA.

As the boys begin to retire into the other room on this blog to discuss scotch, I will tell a sort of a back East/Ivy-league-y kind of story...AND there's a tie in to the puzzle!
I have a SHINER today...a window broke at an art gallery last night and a piece of glass got wedged in my brow (I was lucky, could have been a LOT worse)
This morning I looked like I was wearing red eye shadow on one eye and there was bruising so I was told to go and make sure I didn't still have glass embedded...
The doctor who was 75 had a picture of the Yale crew team of '54 proudly displayed on his wall.
Anyway, LONG story short, it turns out his college roommate lived across the street from me when I was growing up in Mpls!!!!!!
The story I once told here about a neighbor who went to Yale. WHen I was accepted into Harvard, he gave me his prized possession: a vintage Harvard Tshirt (sweatstained and unwashed for 20+ years) that he had won off the back of the team he beat as a Yalie in the 50's...(He had his oar hung up in the livingroom)
and there he was! Stuart Leck, beaming out of the picture in this SF Opthamologist's office 35 years later!!!!!!!!!!!
Now I'm trying to google him and having NO LUCK.

I had LEMANS for LUMINA for a good half hour. And looked at E-AS--
and tried to make ELASTIC work for a long time...
(Sorry, wish I could be more interesting. But I've already told my rubber jokes!)

Unknown 9:33 PM  

Catching up on the crosswords today...the Poetic Edda, from 36-Across, actually mentions the passing of Attila (41-Across).

slypett 11:47 PM  

J.: No shit?

Anonymous 1:39 AM  

Somewhat surprised that this erudite crowd didn't come up with a great example of "putting one's oar in" -- it's repeated several times in "The Mikado". No G&S fans here?

MikeinSTL 1:46 PM  

I, too, have to balk at NARKED -- as mentioned above, the word is NARC, slang for an undercover NARCotics officer. Not that I would know... *cough* ... but aside, with the six crossing 15 letter answers the puzzle screamed "look at me I can create a puzzle with six 15 letter answers!" which just wasn't too inspiring. That being said, it was a decent solving experience, without much lame fill (maybe some questionable clues, but I won't complain.)

slypett 2:40 PM  

MikeinSTL: NARK is British slang for a snitch.

Unknown 6:20 PM  

Thanks for putting syndicated solvers button at the top of the page.

To show my appreciation I will note that the puzzle today was politically incorrect to use the term American Indian. The phrase you should use is Native American or just Natives.

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