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Monday, February 18, 2013

Constructor: Jeffrey Harris

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: CONTROL GROUP (46A: Set of people receiving a placebo ... or what the ends of 20-, 28- and 41-Across belong to?) — theme answers all end with words that are kinds of controls (such as one might find on a TV or dashboard)

  • GOBBLER'S KNOB (20A: Home of the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil)
  • CUTE AS A BUTTON (28A: Simply adorable)
  • BAIT AND SWITCH (Underhanded commercial ploy)

Word of the Day: GOBBLER'S KNOB 

Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby is a groundhog resident of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 (Groundhog Day) of each year, the town of Punxsutawney celebrates the beloved groundhog with a festive atmosphere of music and food. During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise (which occurs at 7:26 AM Eastern Standard Time on February 2 in Punxsutawney)[1], Phil emerges from his temporary home on Gobbler's Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles (3.2 km) east of town. According to the tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter-like weather. If Phil does not see his shadow, he has predicted an "early spring."[2] The date of Phil's prognostication is known as Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada. He is considered to be the world's most famous prognosticating rodent. During the rest of the year, Phil lives in the town library with his "wife" Phyllis.
A select group, called the Inner Circle, takes care of Phil year-round and also plans the annual ceremony. Members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle are recognizable by their top hats and tuxedos. As of 2011, Phil has two co-handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths. (wikipedia)
• • •

Oh, puzzle, you had me at GOBBLER'S KNOB. I watched "Groundhog Day" this past Groundhog Day, and am more convinced than ever that it's among the greatest comedies of all time. Probably one of the ten best movies of the '90s. Just perfect. Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the film's release, so this answer is all kinds of timely. However, it is likely to slow most Monday solvers down, since unless you've seen and know the film Really well (as I do), it's possible you fumbled around a bit there. Also possibly at ACRED (wtf?), and, if you're like me, at JEEZ (I swear I *just* did a puzzle where it was spelled GEEZ ...). Oh, and THE BLUES—that was a pretty tricky clue (4D: Low spirits, as experienced by St. Louis's hockey team?). So tricky, I actually thought it was a theme clue at first. So there are a bunch of places one might get briefly snagged, but the rest was typically Monday-easy, so overall, it was a Monday. A Monday Monday, albeit one I liked more than I typically like Mondays. The theme is of a very basic (last words) type, but with theme answers like those, the unoriginality of theme type is meaningless. Theme works, fill is great, so: success.

Oh, and maybe you didn't know CEE-LO (39A: Green with the 2010 hit "Forget You"). The clue is accurate but misleading, as the song is really called "F*ck You," but for radio play they obviously had to change it. I know his name well and still froze a bit when trying to enter it. Somehow I want it to be C-LO, like J-LO ... but with a C.

[WARNING: Profanity ahead]

CANOERS (39D: Ones paddling down a river, say) made me wince a bit, but in retrospect I don't see anything terribly wrong with the word. It's just that when words get -ERed and pluralized at the same, that's usually a bad sign. I mean, fine for, say, BOMBERS, but bad for, say, SCARERS. I didn't set a personal record time on this puzzle, but I did manage to put my name on top of the leaderboard at the NYT site for the first time ever. That bit of glory lasted all of thirty minutes, and since then many of my friends have posted times *well* under mine. Oh well. At least I'll always have this screenshot (that's me at #1):

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Evan 12:11 AM  

Dang, I too woulda been up near the top of that list for a brief period. Here's to Monday -- the only day out of the week I can legitimately feel like a speed solver before every other day reminds me otherwise!

And come on, Rex, 2:50??? Everybody, especially this guy, totes knows that you're fakin' it. No one could possibly type one letter every three seconds. That'd be, like, a land-speed record, faster than a rocketship could go fly to the moon and land on it -- which of course was also faked.

(Sorry, but I couldn't get enough of that guy's rant.)

PK 12:19 AM  

Maybe it's only geez when it's paired with Louise.

Pete 12:23 AM  

I want to invoke the breakfast, or in my case the immediate pre-sleep test, with regards to this puzzle.

I really didn't need to try to fall asleep thinking of how, exactly, Punxsutawney Phil lives in (or on) a turkey's penis. Or why the turkey would let a critter with with a set of teeth like Punxsutawney Phil's anywhere near his knob.

Anonymous 12:33 AM  

I didn't get all the negativism on SCARERS. Firstly, they are very much a thing, as with bird scarers, which have been around like forever. For a more modern take, Sulley (John Goodman) was "top scarer" in Monsters, Inc. The scarers were all very dedicated to scaring the f... out of kids.

Anonymous 1:31 AM  

9 mins without looking at any across clues. only unsure moment was gRILL CiELO and giNON but I went with the right fill. nice puzzle but easy.

jae 1:35 AM  

Solid easy-medium Mon. for me.  Very smooth grid with a clever theme.  Liked it.  My only problem, aside from iPad fumble fingers and moatS for CAGES, was my continuing inability to remember how to spell DAIS.  I almost always reverse the vowels.

Anoa Bob 1:48 AM  

Used to teach research design, so CONTROL GROUP was bowling in my lanes. SWITCH worked well for me as an in-the-language end to CONTROL, KNOB less so, and BUTTON not at all.

What's the name of the set of people receiving the actual treatment?

a. Test Dupes
b. Cannon Fodder
c. Guinea Pigs
d. Intro Students Seeking Extra Credit by Participating in a Study
e. None of the above

chefwen 2:24 AM  

Someday I'm going to time myself. I whipped through this one so quickly it made my head spin. Wish I could say the same on a Friday or Saturday, ain't going to happen any time soon.

Cee Lo Green made me say yuck, any pompous ass who insists on wearing sunglasses indoors makes me shudder, had to quit watching the show. In fact, I'm pretty much over watching all of those singing contests. Seems like it's all about the judges instead of the talent. As that other pompous ass would say "bullocks". You know to whom I'm referring.

Toby was as CUTE AS A BUTTON, Skippy, not so much but he is as smart as a whip.

Davis 3:08 AM  

Definitely understand your listing pleasure: I'm still super-excited I was the eighth person to complete yesterday's puzzle on the Magmic app. Not as impressive as a top-ten solving time, but was the first (and probably last) time I'll appear in any top ten list.

As for today's puzzle: just lovely. GOBBLER'S KNOB was indeed my first stumble, along with gEEZ. I played enough video game hockey with my brother to know THE BLUES, and would have known CEE-LO if I'd even seen it before I completed it via crosses. Oh, and this was probably the first time I was able to pull up TENON on demand, so there's that.

All in all, this was what a Monday puzzle should be.

Mike 4:12 AM  

5:07 on the iPad, my all-time best! Did not know Gobbler's Knob bit got all the crosses.

webwinger 6:09 AM  

Count myself a big fan and repeating viewer of “Groundhog Day”, so got GOBBLERSKNOB right off (or at least quickly after crosses made it clear that Pennsylvania was wrong). Agree with @Rex abut the film—screenplay is brilliant, worthy of a master constructor, and Bill Murray’s performance his best ever IMO. I just mailed the DVD to my friend Jim who put me up in New Haven while I was stranded for 3 days during the recent blizzard, a situation reminiscent of movie. Also, I live in Illinois, where GHD was actually filmed, and once drove through Punxsutawney (try putting that into an Xword!) in the middle of the night, when I got lost on my way to Indiana PA. In any event, I found the puzzle overall very easy and satisfying.

Feeling good about my puzzle-self today after (1) plunking for American Red Crosswords (is there a way to do them without using paper?), and (2) signing up for ACPT (which I had never heard of until I noticed that abbreviation bouncing around here over the past couple of weeks). Have to fly in Friday evening and out Saturday evening, but fortunately good MDW-LGA fares on Southwest. Look forward to spending a night in Brooklyn for the first time ever (hope I’ll be able to grab a NOVA sandwich while I’m there), and sharing physical space with denizens of the virtual SHTETL that is RexWorld.

Anonymous 7:06 AM  

Yup just watched Groundhog Day too..had geez for jeez too..but my duh moment was slot not slit..until I realized oamb was getting off on the wrong foot :)

evil doug 7:29 AM  
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evil doug 7:34 AM  
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evil doug 7:36 AM  

Lotsa creatures today: 'rabbit', 'owls', 'ape', 'ants', 'octopus', 'gobblers', 'bait'---and Noah to organize them by 'two's.

Pretty good for a Monday. 'Acred Iowa t-bones' are mighty fine eatin'. 'Ale' and 'opiate's to aid digestion....

Other good stuff: 'Allege', 'attach', 'Celtic' (a good clue for some future hard c/soft c confusion), 'Tic Tac'...

PETERMAN: That noise. That's the noise!


PETERMAN: That infernal rattling sound that has plagued me these past two days - and I could not find the source. In my office, in the hallway. Even in the men's room! Shame on you, Elaine!

ELAINE: No, no, Mr. Peterman, that wasn't me!

PETERMAN: That reminds me of the Hatian Voodoo rattle torture! You haven't gone over to their side, have you?

ELAINE: No, Mr. Peterman...

PETERMAN: Because, if I hear one more rattle - just one - you're out on your can. And if you are undead --I'll find out about that too.[Exits]

[Elaine collars Lou in the break room and grabs his Tic Tacs...]

ELAINE: No, stop it! Bad voodoo. You gotta stop using these.

LOU: Why?

ELAINE: Because they're turning your teeth green?

LOU: I only buy the white ones.

ELAINE: Okay ... well, then, your teeth are green for a different reason. Just stop carrying these, okay? Just ... just mouth wash.

LOU: I can't. It burns my cankers.


Unknown 7:56 AM  

Fun. I knew GOBBLERS KNOB. Did not know the groundhog had a last name, though. I wake hubby up with "I've Got You, Babe" playing on Groundhog Day...it's tradition.

joho 8:24 AM  

One of your best write ups ever, @Rex! I totally agree with you and the others who absolutely LOVE "Groundhog Day." I can't count how many times I've seen it.

I also love that clip of the girl signing her final.

I thought this was a fantastic Monday as it shows how a simple theme well done makes for a smooth, fun solve.

@evil doug ... I wrote in the margin last night: Lots of biblical references here with ADAM, ENOS, CAIN(E), and NOAH with his saved animals TWO by TWO. We have POLAR bears, APEs, OWLS, STAGs, OCTOPUSes, RABBITs, ANTS and perhaps birds that TRILL in CAGES. Did the ark have SAILS?

Thank you, Jeffrey Harris ... .this was a perfect start to the week!

jberg 8:35 AM  

I couldn't get through that narrow SLIT until I had a few crosses, so I started with ADAM, as we all did, I guess. And my last entry was ENDS. Geographically then a very nice grid, even if ACME was not at the apex. The JEEZ didn't bother me either, because I started with the J. Other than that, what everybody said. A great start to the week.

JohnV 8:52 AM  

Wrote in PENNSYLVANIA for 20a and spent a goodly amount of time fixing that. Never heard of GPBBLERSKNOB. Okay Monday. IPad Times app is dramatically slower for me, but no other choice this week.

chefbea 8:59 AM  

Quickest Monday for me and I don't even time myself. Still haven't finished my bowl of cereal!!!

Shout out to Acme at 17 across. Loved the St. Louis Blues and did not like acred.

Loren Muse Smith 9:09 AM  

I found this A CREDible Monday, and I did CAREER through this time!

Like @ED – I noticed the CEE issues, especially the CELTIC and TICTAC.

And @ED and @joho – great catches on all the animal and biblical stuff! Add PODS of whales. . .

Of course I have the same DAIS issues as you, @jae. . .

Interesting how there are so many ways to attack JEEZ. Sheesh, geez. . . Usually the trouble is with words borrowed from languages that don’t use our ABCs. And on the same How to Put Interjections to Paper subject, I always secretly want “duh” instead of “doh.”

We’ve already discussed the TWO pronunciations of DOUR. Mine rhymes with “tour.”

@chefwen – you have TICTACS today to beat back your kimchi breath from yesterday.

On the front page of our paper today is a picture of a crash where one car T BONED (into?) another car. TOW IT!

OPIATE keeps staring back at me like it’s one of those “hyphened” “orientate” verbs. (Stop OPIATing or ELSE!) Hmm. Hyphen is getting a lot of press of LATE.

SLIT vs slot. Cool. I have this nifty little list of words with only one letter difference that can be clued the same way. No idea where to go from there, though. I also have a “sober” “somber” list started, too. But again, now what?

@webwinger – yay! (yeah?) See you in Brooklyn!

63A – ENDS. Elegant. Thanks, Jeffrey. I’ll give you a solid TEN ON this one!

jackj 9:19 AM  

Using CONTROLGROUP as the reveal in this puzzle might have pointed to an interesting theme if it featured the likes of, say, a riot policeman swinging his TRUNCHEON, but it reaches the excitement level of watching paint dry when we learn that the signal entry for the theme’s CONTROL is an On/Off SWITCH.

There were still some interesting bits included in the fill for today, LUTZ and LUTE; a hockey clue for THEBLUES of St. Louis; TRILL and LILT; a fun to use phrase, namely, TOWIT and, of course, it is always nice to see ACME again.

In the theme clues, CUTEASABUTTON is, well, cute as a button, but there are undercurrents running around the grid as we are given GOBBLERSKNOB as the cutesy sounding home of Phil, the PA. groundhog but, not surprisingly, GOBBLERSKNOB has a rather salacious description as detailed in the Urban Dictionary.

In the same vein, CEELO Green’s hit song isn’t really “Forget You”, that’s the more or less cleaned up “radio-edit version”. The title of the song actually published used the first letters of Forget and You to create an alternative X-rated phrase. If CEELO had to be in the puzzle perhaps it would have been cleaner to leave the song title out of the clue.

Oh well, at least our CANOERS weren’t CANOODLERS; or were they?

quilter1 9:48 AM  

Quick and easy. I found TOWIT interesting as I realized I don't remember ever seeing it in print, only spoken. For some reason I assumed it would to TOWhIT. If housecleaning goes as quickly as the puzzle I may take time to look this up and see where it comes from. Happy President's day--no junk mail to throw away.

orangeblossomspecial 9:55 AM  

The Ames Brothers, a popular quartet in the early 50s, answer the musical question asked by 14A "Who built the ark?" 'NOAH NOAH'.

30D 'Red SAILS in the sunset' was a hit for 30 years.

Here is 43D from Alice in Wonderland: 'I'M LATE'.

Carola 10:00 AM  
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Carola 10:02 AM  

CUTE! Didn't see this reveal coming - thought it would be something to do with turning on and off. Only SNAGs were gEEZ and AssErt.

Have never seen Groundhog Day but it's clear I need to!

@joho and @evil doug - I noticed the mini Old Testament theme with the four names and the menagerie, but never put them together with the ark. TWO by TWO - very neat!

@loren - IAMB in awe of your way with words!

Sandy K 10:39 AM  

Very enjoyable Monday without the usual schlock.

Only write-over was the J in JEEZ, cuz Tokyo's home is not in gAPAN- Must check your clues, even if you Think you have it...

Didn't know GOBBLER'S KNOB, but was easily gettable from crosses.

Liked THE BLUES, BAIT AND SWITCH, and CEELO Green! Lots of stuff that was CUTE AS A BUTTON!

Milford 11:06 AM  

Easy, peasy Monday, nice theme. I'll bet the CONTROL GROUP wishes they had some of the OPIATEs in the drug trial.

CEELO was easy, but I have teenagers. And personally I think JEEZ is better spelled this way, given its source.

Ned Ryerson! Bing!

Chief 11:10 AM  

Happened to see the revealer clue early - was hoping theme answers would be NINETY-NINE, EIGHTY-SIX, THIRTEEN, maybe a LARABEE or HYMIE. Cone of silence descending....

mac 11:16 AM  

Very nice Monday puzzle! I also stumbled over the jeez trip and needed a lot of crosses for Gobbler's Knob. I've only seen the mobie twice, but I agree it is fantastic.

Maybe we should put stickers with our blog names on our ID tags in Brooklyn. It's a huge crowd so it might be helpful.

OISK 11:16 AM  

After going through all of last week (including the cryptic on Sunday) with just one wrong square, ( Keenen on Friday) it is frustrating to miss on a Monday. But having never heard of Ceelo Green (who the heck IS that??) and not knowing tenon, I guessed wrong on the Natick. Took me 6 minutes, which is about average for me on a Monday, but no credit due to writing Cielo and tinon . ( it did occur to me that if the right answer was "Cielo", then perhaps an Italian sky clue would have been more probable. Coelo? Caelo? I actually never even cosidered Ceelo.)

JFe 11:21 AM  


Today's New York Times: "...That decision [killing off Susan] had more to do with the show's main characters having trouble playing off Heidi Swedberg, who played Susan. As reported in Warren Littlefield's book about his days running NBC programming, Top of the Rock, Jerry Seinfeld described having problems in a scene with Ms. Swedberg, which led Julia Louis-Dreyfus to declare, 'I just want to kill her.' With that the show's co-creator Larry David was inspired."

Sparky 11:44 AM  

Had oarsmen before CANOERS. Hand up @jae and lms re DAIS. I forget how to promounce it too. Watched Top Hat Saturday with GINGER. I also have a little hoard of words like SLi/oT where I leave a blank till the cross. Pleasant Monday puzzle.

Loved The Sonny and Cher Show. I'll have to catch Groundhog Day. Blown away by Downton.

Finally registered for ACPT. Looking forward to seeing old and new friends. So, @Tita, you're on. Now to set up the air fare. Probably be on the phone the rest of the day as I am trying to toggle together FFMiles and $.

Sparky 11:57 AM  

That's pronounce, of course.

Lewis 12:05 PM  

Fast and fun. Another lover of Groundhog Day, me. While some liked the fauna, I liked the calming words: LILT, LUTE, ABATE, OPIATE, SAILS, and CANOERS.

GILL I. 12:05 PM  

@jackj: JEEZ thanks a lot for making me look up GOBBLERS KNOB!!!!
Great Monday puzzle; easy enough for newbies, wonderful refreshing words - really, CUTE AS A BOTTON. Hmm, why are buttons cute?
I envy, envy, envy those of you attending ACPT. What fun to finally meet up with your cyber pals. Those of us left on the sidelines expect lots of PICS!!!

LaneB 12:45 PM  

Good Monday puzzle and CONTROL theme cute enough. Only problem was cross of 36d and 39a. Had all the letters but the first e in CEELO. Never heard of her or Mortise's partner either. Guessed the letter had to be E and finished with no errors or erasures.

GILL I. 1:19 PM  

@LaneB: CEELO is the eccentric DUDE on "The View." I personally have a crush on Blake....

GILL I. 1:22 PM  

Ooops - "The Voice." The View is a whole nother set of eccentrics.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:45 PM  

All this talk about speed, and I have to confess to what I usually don't even report as a write-over: Glanced at the clue for 35 D before seriously starting the puzzle, it was such a gimme that I entered the answer - at 33 A.

Good puzzle.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:46 PM  

Not my day! - Meant at 35 A!

Sandy K 1:54 PM  

@Sparky- I'm still recuping from Downton!

BIG article in today's NYT ARTS section today- but Spoiler Alert- don't read it if you didn't watch yet.

Sfingi 2:33 PM  

Never heard of LUTZ (sports), and wondered if they really had JEEZ there - sort of Lord's-Name-in-Vainish.

Otherwise, fastest ever, for my personal best.

@Anoa Bob - Will push BUTTON for food.

John in Philly 4:03 PM  

I fell for the Pennsylvania answer for Phil, then fixed it. Under ten minutes - good for me for a Monday.

sanfranman59 4:21 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Mon 5:49, 6:07, 0.95, 26%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:39, 0.99, 37%, Easy-Medium

xyz 4:32 PM  

Except for the CEELO crossing ACRED middle, NEA daily Puzzle easy.

Rote, Knee-Jerk, regurg until cr*p fill, I don't know what to think of this one

Nameless 6:46 PM  

Took me 90 seconds. So there!

ACRED sucks big time. As does CANOERS. I imagine some people DNF because they're reasonably thinking, "How can these possibly be words?!"

sanfranman59 10:33 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 5:46, 6:07, 0.94, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:39, 0.98, 33%, Easy-Medium

Acme 2:04 AM  

Will pass on comments from today's blog to Danny Rubin the writer of "Groundhog's Day".. Who doesn't get nearly enough credit!!!

Great start to this week, or any other...tho
Why wasn't it published two weeks ago?

I've never heard of GOBBLERSKNOB, I tried KNOt.

Relieved CEELO Green is now officially a Monday word. Had his whole name as part of a theme answer with a fun puzzle constructed with Jonathan Berman...
It did not tickle the powersthatbe, but we didn't know if the unfamiliarity of CEE-LO's name was part of that...now we can narrow that fear down.

@chief 11:10 am
Hilarious!!! Too bad numbers are wrong...
Missed it by "that"much...sorry about that, Chief!

Tita 5:48 PM  

Way late chiming in here...busy day in NY yesterday.

@Sparky - fabulous - now to clench my teeth and resign myself to having to explain to (or ignore) non-puzzle friends who are completely puzzled by such an event.

Groundhog Day, the movie, was an unexpected godsend while we were living in Germany.
We thought that watching American movies and tv would help in learning the language...
But...German is so much *bigger* than English - it takes many more syllables to day the same thing...
Meaning that in a dubbed movie, they have to talk really fast, which would make it really tough too follow.

Enter Groundhog Day - the same dialogue over and over!!!
We could recite that insurance salesman's pitch perfectly... ;)

Liked the puzzle, btw.
Congrats @Rex on your screenshot.

Spacecraft 10:51 AM  

Nice, clean (mostly) Monday puzzle. Had a near-natick at the ACRED (add my WTF? to Rex's) and CEELO (who??). While I imagine there are many wealthy landowners who are "acrid," I went with the E.

Add my voice to the chorus of praise for "Groundhog Day." Besides the comic genius of Murray, let's not forget the eye candy of the perfect-faced Andie McDowell. My favorite moment is when the shrink thinks "we should meet again. How's next Tuesday?" [PHIL begins banging his head with his fist] "Is that not good for you?" I never tire of seeing this film. Thanks, Jeff.

Solving in Seattle 5:04 PM  

I'm with @Spacecraft on the near Natick at ACRED (really questionable cluing) and CEELO.

Also, did anyone else wince at the cluing of "Arctic or Antarctic"? POLAR?? Really? Pole, yes; cold place, yes; a place where all the ice is melting and the cold weather animals are losing their homes, yes. POLAR, no.

If you picked FGCU and Harvard, raise your hand. Also buy a Powerball ticket.

strayling 7:35 PM  

On the plus side, I learned a whole lot of Americana today. On the minus side, some of the clues GABE me a hard time because I don't know enough yet. ENCINO reason to give up yet though.

Waxy in Montreal 8:09 PM  

Belated welcome to syndicate solving, @strayling. Hang in there - it does get easier as time goes by.

The CEELO, TENON, ACRED, TRILL convergence was distinctly unMonday-like IMHO. Also, not a great fan of CANOERS (CANOEIST has 20x more Google results than CANOER.)

Still, like many, can never get enough of Groundhog Day so Jeffrey & Will are forgiven. (Read recently that Bill Murray (Phil Connors) is estimated to have spent anywhere from 8 to 30 years reliving that one day in Punxsutawney improving himself in each and every way - however, since he was eventually able to win over the ever-so-charming Andie Macdowell, it must have been definitely worth it.)

strayling 7:40 PM  

Thanks for the welcome, Waxy. I'm encouraging my education by solving with paper and ink - not being able to erase mistakes is a great incentive.

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