Football Hall-of-Famer Michael / MON 11-17-14 / was here WWII catchphrase / Classic video game with ghosts / Crimean conference site

Monday, November 17, 2014

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: TWINS  (67A: Minnesota baseball team … or what 18-, 30-, 44- and 53-Across all are) — I guess all the theme answers are twins, then. That seems to be what the clue is telling me.

Theme answers:
  • KOFI ANNAN (18A: Ban Ki-moon's predecessor at the U.N.)
  • ASHTON KUTCHER (30A: "Two and a Half Men" co-star starting in 2011)
  • MARIO ANDRETTI (44A: Sporting champion with a drive for success?)
  • VIN DIESEL (53A: "The Fast and the Furious" co-star)
Word of the Day: CHICK MAGNET (25D: Sexy guy) —
chick magnet means someone who has many female admirers, or an object which has the property of attracting them (eg. a sports car).
Chick Magnet may also refer to:
• • •

What I like most about this puzzle is that the theme is almost defiantly pathetic. Surely many famous people have been TWINS. The baseball clue on the revealer is just the arbitrary cherry on top of the flimsy sundae. It's like an anti-puzzle, an un-puzzle, a deconstruction of Mondayness. This puzzle's got your Monday theme right here [grabs crotch]. Theme schmeme, look at this grid. I mean, you can take OBE and ORI back whence they came, and IRES is easily the worst piece of fill you'll see this week, but the rest is clean, cool, smooth, glistening, joyous. The long Downs shimmer, delightfully yin-yanging the conventional masculinity gamut, while the relatively open center comes off with barely a hitch, and the longer symmetrical Acrosses toward the middle echo my elementary-school self upon entering any pizza parlor, convenience store, or other video-game containing establishment: "YES, YES! PAC-MAN!" It's not a great puzzle, by any means, but I definitely did ENJOY myself, and honestly, I don't know what else to ask from a Monday. Be entertaining, be clean, exit stage right.

  • 11A: Place ___ (part of a table setting) (MAT) — had about 3 seconds of refusal time, during which I refused to move forward on account of I thought "placemat" was one word. Spellcheck's not flagging it, so ...
  • 38A: Gumshoes, in old crime fiction (TECS) — I teach old crime fiction, I am deep into Chandler's The Long Goodbye right now, and also deep into a "Noirvember" film noir binge. I have yet to see TECS anywhere. Gumshoe, occasionally; shamus, for sure. Peeper, Op, Dick, Sleuth, all good. But tec … that's rare to the point of invisibility, at least in hardboiled American crime fiction. 
  • 7D: Reading place … or a reading device (NOOK) — clever pick-up of Barnes & Noble's Kindle rival. I had the terminal "K" and wrote in DESK. Made sense at the time. Not now, of course.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Whirred Whacks 12:13 AM  

Liked the clue "Pyramid schemer" for PHARAOH.

Nice to see UVULA and CRONE as answers.

After reading @George Barany's "mohel humor" (aka dick jokes) in Sunday's comments, I wondered if MONSTROSITY and CHICK MAGNET were connected.

Enjoy your Monday.

jae 12:13 AM  

Medium for me but it seemed like it might be tough for a novice solver.  Things like LOIRE, ASHER, PRIAM, PATTI, IRVIN... are not tip-of-the-tongue knowledge. 

Did not know all those folks were twins.  Interesting theme, some nice long downs, light on dreck, liked it a lot!

Zeke 12:16 AM  

That spot on her right boob is mighty suspicious.

Oh, the puzzle. Good puzzle, irrelevant theme/reveal. I initially thought that PAIRS was the hidden reveal (all the names have two letters repeated, excep that one has a full house). Pairs/Twins, who cares. IRES/IRKS annoyed me.

Steve J 12:18 AM  

Had a much harder time with this than I do most Mondays, which meant it felt more like a Tuesday to me. Not entirely sure why, other that it took me a long time to pick up both MARIO ANDRETTI and VIN DIESEL despite having them well-crossed.

Agreed that the strength of this one is in the downs. CHICK MAGNET and MONSTROSITY are excellent, KILROY and PRECEPT are nice, and PHARAOH was wonderfully clued, as was NOOK.

Theme's threadbare - even with the shoutout to my beloved Minnesota TWINS - but it's secondary anyway to plenty of other good stuff going on. Nice Monday.

Unknown 12:23 AM  

IRwIN/wINDIESEL. Ja? Nein?!?!? Ach du schande.

John Child 12:38 AM  

This felt tough but went down in typical Monday time. Like @Steve J the names in the south fell for me only after quite a few crosses.

I know that a critic has to critique, but I thought this theme was far more interesting than the elementary change-a-vowel or words-go-with theme normal in the early part of the week.

I never saw the clue for PHARAOH but love it in hindsight. A wonderful puzzle! Thanks Mr McCoy!

My best friend from school is a mohel, so I enjoyed @George Barany's jokes a lot.

Ellen S 12:56 AM  

When my sainted hubby got me addicted to crosswords, TEC was among the first things he taught me:
A gumshoe is a 'tec.
Miners go to the ADIT to begin their workday. I don't know if there's a special word for a mine "exit", since it's the same place.
All plants are either ALOE or OSIER.
There was only ever one dog in films: ASTA.
Only one kind of marine predator: the mythical ERN or ERNE depending on whether the constructor needed a 3- or 4-letter word.

chefwen 1:32 AM  

Medium for me, difficult for newbie Jon.

Wasn't crazy about the theme, didn't know they were all twins and didn't really care, still don't. 18A was crosses only, first time I had seen that name.

Let's think things will pick up as the week progresses.

Moly Shu 2:55 AM  

Interesting, but ultimately useless fact that the themers are all twins. Agree with @Jae on ASHER,PRIAM, et al. on the not so mondayishness. Wanted a golfer for 44A. Tried Arnold Palmer first but gave up and used the crosses. MONSTROSITY my favorite entry, by far. Good use of ICY also. Liked it.

George Barany 3:37 AM  

Greetings from Minnesota, where we know a thing or two about TWINS.

Congratulations to @Tom McCoy on his seventh New York Times puzzle (three Mondays, three Sundays, and a Thursday) since making his debut just a shade over a year ago. According to the invaluable metrics over at, we learn that 3 of the 4 theme entries are debuts, as are the two long downs--all other words have been used previously. Besides its relative Scrabbliness, this puzzle definitely falls within the statistical range for Mondays.

LMAO at @Rex's critique which really got to the crux of the puzzle's delights and torments. I'm still trying to decide whether the missing "F" from "... easily the worst piece of ill you'll see this week ..." was an unintentional typographical oversight, or another layer of humor.

I see that two of today's early-bird commentators have alluded to my 5:15 pm post from yesterday, so to save those interested some time, I repeat the salient sentence: "As for the Jewish ritual--and its practitioner--alluded to in the clue, I can only offer these jokes. Some of the naughtier ones are coded in red towards the end of that link." Interestingly, the data base reports two appearances by MOHEL and five by BRIS.

GILL I. 3:41 AM  

@Zeke. Might that be some spilt milk?
Yikes...two female references - one a CRONE and the other a YENTA. Oh wait, we have the "godmother of punk" PATTI Smith.
My nickname for VIN DIESEL is Wine Gas. There are actually two KUTCHER's???? Mon dieu, it makes my UVULA PLUME!
I actually had fun with this despite the IRES, IRK, RAGE and ICY. MONSTROSITY and CHICK MAGNET- at the RISK of offending- are da bomb...

Anonymous 4:35 AM  

TECS / ASHER crossing was practically a Natick, certainly by Monday standards anyway.

Anonymous 4:59 AM  

Excellent IMO.

Anonymous 5:03 AM  

I really enjoyed this one.

It was definitely unusual for a Monday, and unusual is always good. The grid and the long answers made it feel like an easy version of a Friday/Saturday themeless, which I thought was very cool. And then, when I got to the end, I discovered there was a theme and it surprised me and I enjoyed the lil' surprise. It didn't bother me that it was a flimsy or boring theme.

That the theme included Kofi Annan and Ashton Kutcher in the same puzzle can't be bad.

Lewis 5:53 AM  

This will have M&A smiling, with that UVULA, like a beautiful pendant, draped right in the middle.

I liked the TWINS of YESYES. I have always loved the word IMAGERY, and MONSTROSITY just looks terrific in the grid.

I liked that the puzzle wasn't mindless, that I had to work at least a little to get the names. I would have liked it better if all four names came from different fields, rather than two actors, and one each from a different purview. I never would have thought that before, but I read Rex Parker.

Anonymous 6:34 AM  

Well, same train of thought. Glad to see that Will Shortz selected a puzzle that makes R.P. happy. Thought that was impossible, given that the king comes across most of the time as a dude who used to enjoy this gig, but who now phones it in. Nevertheless, btw, the blog itself is usually entertaining, informative, and no doubt, keeps the constructors in their toes.

RAD2626 7:50 AM  

I think complaints about the theme are misplaced. Interesting piece of information that only a savant (or perhaps a twin) would know. Long and well spaced theme answers. Revealer direct and well-placed. Fill well done. Always have trouble with spelling of PHARAOH so had to reverse OA with crosses. Good start to week.

Dorothy Biggs 7:54 AM  

Wow. Rex's review was downright poetic...I thought I was reading a cheap romance novel there for a while...dial it down there, Mr. Harlequin, this is a family site.

"...but the rest is clean, cool, smooth, glistening, joyous. The long Downs shimmer, delightfully yin-yanging the conventional masculinity gamut, while the relatively open center comes off with barely a hitch, and the longer symmetrical Acrosses toward the middle echo my elementary-school self upon entering any pizza parlor, convenience store, or other video-game containing establishment: "YES, YES! PAC-MAN!""


I did not like IRE/IRKS or YALTA/YENTA...these should not be in the same puzzle, in my opinion...unqualified as it is.

Leapfinger 8:13 AM  

Yikes! So we let GLORIA ALLRED into the grid, and what hapens? The very next day -- Backlash! I thought I fell in a Testosterone Pool.

I was fine with KOFI ANNAN, but grew a bit perturbed with ASHTON KUTSCHER (aka Demi Moore's Big Mistake), esp with his THIGH across the CHICKMAGNET. When MARIO ANDRETTI showed up, I noticed a 5 o'clock shadow fall over the grid, and by the time I saw VIN DIESEL, I was slathering myself with estrogen cream. This went beyond IRK and well into 'Roid RAGE.

Wait, wait! there's more!! YES YES, we have at least NINE or TEN more examples of gender imbalance:
Steve EARLE but no Loretta Lynn
Michael IRVIN but no Babe Zaharias
PHARAOH but no Cleopatra
PACMAN but no PACgirl
SOL but no Luna
TENOR but no Soprano
Two IVANS but no Catherine
ASHER but no ASHERette
PRIAM but no Helen (I don't even get why a PRIAM pick)
I bet that even MAT is an abbrev for MATthew instead of MATilda.

So what did we get on the distaff side? There's hardly the SENT of a Woman: one PATTI, one busybody YENTA and one AGED CRONE; no compliment to clue her as a witch...

Boy, oops, I mean Girl! was I IRKed!

Oh, umm... They're TWINS?... ICY. Well, it would be nice if a PAIR [or half a PAIR] of the TWINS at least were of the female persuasion. Maybe there's a MARIA ANDRETTI, maybe KOFI ANNAN has an ANNA. That might help to VINDI Cate.

'delightfully yin-yanging the conventional masculinity gamut', my left foot.

Norm C. 8:14 AM  

Filled in the puzzle top down, left to right, so TWINS was the last word entered. When I looked back at the four theme names, my first thought was, "I didn't know MARIO and RETTI were twins," but couldn't figure out how to parse the other three names. Then I got it.

jberg 8:18 AM  

IRES shouldn't be in any puzzle, actually, it's a non-word as far as I'm concerned.

That said, yeah, the theme was awful, a lot of the fill was good, and I tripped up the same place as @Casco -- IRwIN and wIN Diesel sounded a lot more likely than VIN DIESEL, VINDI ESEL, or whatever that's supposed to be. But I'm not complaining about that-- entertainment and sports stars are just as legitimate as the names I tend to know, like ASHER Lev.

PRIAM had 100 sons, I bet some of them were TWINS.

RooMonster 8:20 AM  

Hey All !
Enjoyed this one. Have heard of 'em all. Didn't know they all were twins, though, so that was neat to learn. It surprised me about VIN DIESEL. Wonder what the others name is... Van?

23 threes, seems high. If you worked a tad bit more, you could eliminate the black square in the first four-squarer, and get rid of two threes. Also cut out the last black square in the same row, thereby taking care of 4 more threes. But that's just me...

Either way, with my track record with Will, it Wouldn't Excite Him Enough! :-)

So, cool puz. Easy. Have to admit to a couple writeovers, had fIvE for the hydra, but Mr. Annan took care of that. Also, PhI before I got POSER. But ended up with no mistakes, no Googles, no hits, no runs, no erors!

SAUNTERing away

joho 8:30 AM  

When I got to TWINS and got the theme I didn't jump up and down shouting, "YESYES or YEA!" Recalling a recent puzzle it was more of a, "SOO..." But, after reading @Rex's write-up I became more enthusiastic about the puzzle as a whole.

I think CHICKMAGNET and MONSTROSITY were the cherries on top that got this one in the paper. Nice!

Looking for another layer I Googled to see how many Major League baseball players were twins. Just NINE sets and the only name I know is Jose Canseco.
So an arcane bonus clue for NINE could've been, "How many sets of twins played in Major League baseball?" I am not serious!

The write-up got me in a good mood this morning and therefore so did the puzzle.

John Child 8:37 AM  

LOL @ Leapfinger. woMONSTROSITY is a serious woe. Man!

AliasZ 8:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
AliasZ 8:43 AM  

This was a surprising Wednesday puzzle on a Monday.

ICY a PATTIern of TENOR eleven other TWIN references emerge here. LOIRE two days in a row works well with the TWIN theme, as do a PAIR of IVANS, PACMAN and one of the MARIO brothers, the TWIN Ns in INN, the TWIN U's in UVULA, YESYES already mentioned, a PAIR of MAGs in the CHICK MAGNET / IMAGERY and the PAIR of ASHes in the ASHER / ASHTON crossings. Then a couple of triplets: AGE repeating in IMAGERY, RAGE, and AGED, and the trip-synonyms IRES / IRK / RAGE.

Not much to add, except I liked PRECEPT, SAUNTER, IMAGERY, and the long downs. True, besides the name theme, there was a cluster of none-theme names in the middle of the grid, plus IRVIN thrown in at the SW for good measure. An awful lot of names. Despite these, today's puzzle was not a MONSTROSITY. I ENJOYed it.

Now it's time for my POACH eggs to the sounds of PHARAOH Sanders on TENOR sax.

KILROY was here.

Mohair Sam 8:52 AM  

Fun Monday. Played kinda tough for us because we didn't know a lot of the pop culture names (PATTI, ASHER, EARLE) and couldn't spell the ones we knew (still trying to get an "s" in KUTCHER).

Rex's comments actually were as much fun as the puzzle today. I went on Raymond Chandler zag about a year ago (great stuff, btw), maybe I'll sign up for OFL's class.

Got a kick out of the macho-ness. CHICKMAGNET a classic.

Elaina 8:58 AM  

I read a lot of old detective fiction and totally agree with Rex: TEC exists in crosswords not in books.

PHAROAH caused a delay for a while.

@Leapfinger - love your gender analysis!

Leapfinger 9:04 AM  

@John Child, just a little token' Jamaican there, MON! Grin back at you.

@ElaineS, I think ASTA has company in Toto.

@GeorgeB, I read your link on George White [very interesting] and moiled my way through All the jokes, a terrific selection but the ones in red weren't really that blue.

Wine Gas, seriously?? ;D

Ludyjynn 9:08 AM  

Okay, fairly easy Monday. Had 'meander' before SAUNTER, but ACNE cleared that up!

@Leapy, I ENJOYed your IMAGERY and aMAIZing analysis of this puzz. You might add Molly IVINS instead of IVANS to your extensive list.

Liked clues for NOOK, UVULA and ISTO, but have plenty of IRE for IRK and RAGE; too much negativity on a Monday for moi.

Thanks, TM and WS.30350

quilter1 9:09 AM  

I appreciated the puzzle being pretty easy today as I have an early appointment. Liked everything, but there seemed a sub-theme of anger--IRK, IRES, RAGE.

Ludyjynn 9:11 AM  

Freaking captcha robo numbers crept into the above; sorry.

chefbea 9:13 AM  

I too noticed all the anger, and also the place settings....getting ready for thanksgiving.

Did not know all those people were twins. Easy puzzle any way.

Unknown 9:19 AM  

Easy. Sailed through, got to the reveal, and scratched my head. ANDRETTI. KUTCHER? ANNAN? TWINS? Huh?

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. They must have twin siblings. Got it.

Not a strong enough linkage to make the puzzle sing. IMHO. FWIW. Interesting trivia, though, I will grant you that.

Hartley70 9:56 AM  

Tougher than usual for a Monday here also. I would have plopped it into the Tuesday slot. That said, the long answers were most enjoyable and the theme an enigma until the weak TWIN link. I kept trying to do something with their initials until I got to VD. I agree with @AndrewMorrison that it did not carry a tune.

mac 10:10 AM  

Easy-Medium Monday for me, because I had to work around the middle. Kilroy, Earle and plume held me up.

Nice long words, and pretty words, such as saunter, imagery and precept.

Good one!

wreck 10:25 AM  

Liked this a lot! Tuesdayish time for me. Solved as a themeless.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:30 AM  

Good Monday puzzle, with a somewhat interesting theme, although I don't expect to remember that any of these people are twins.

Must give credit to the constructor for finding twin celebs with matching numbers of letters to fit the grid, but somewhat lessened by the fact that nowadays anyone can Google "celebrities who are twins" and find lists of possibilities.

This may seem to contradict my position from yesterday that having lots of possible answers does not detract from the puzzle, but yesterday's answers involved word play; today's are (seemingly) just chosen from a list by reason of their length.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

EMy only complaint is with RP's statement: delightfully yin-yanging the conventional masculinity gamut'.....crone and yenta...are you kidding?

Arlene 10:40 AM  

You know - reading these comments, and having finished this puzzle - I realize that I'm an "impressionist solver". I got all the answers, and appreciate the skill and creativity - but I didn't know that any of those people were twins, and it didn't seem to matter to me either. And I appreciate some people's excitement over their favorite sports teams - doesn't seem to matter to me either.

So now I realize that puzzles can leave me with an impression. If art and music can do that, why not crossword puzzles?

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

@Anon 10:31 - crone and yenta are not long downs...

Steve Earle fan 11:22 AM  

It is hard to apply any simple label to Steve Earle. If I had to do so, I might call him a folk/protest rocker. He is an annual fixture at "Hardly Strictly Bluegrass" in San Francisco and I could twist this title to say that SE is "hardly strictly country."

Jeff in Ann Arbor 11:26 AM  

Natick for me with Irvin crossing Vin Diesel. Don't know either. Had all but the V and guessed wrong with a W. Both are plausible. Dislike when proper names cross.

Z 11:31 AM  

Now, I am wondering if estrogen cream is what Kim Kardashian is wearing in that cover photo. Thanks for that, @Leapy.

On the challenging end. It is not often on a Monday where I read four or five clues before writing anything in the grid with confidence.

I think it was yesterday that the issue of theme tightness came up. Here's a perfect example of a tight theme - a set of four TWINS. Is it better than yesterday's theme? Does it need to be tightened further (all politicians or all sports stars) to be better? Or loosened up (all four famous in different fields - or TWIN women and TWIN men)? To me, this theme begins to get to the point of trivial trivia, so I preferred yesterday's theme by a the hair on a fat pig's chin.

Lewis 12:08 PM  

Factoid: VIN DIESEL's facebook page is the 9th most liked page on all of Facebook, and his name anagrams to "I end lives".

Quotoid: "That old black magic has me in its spell, That old black magic that you weave so well; ICY fingers up and down my spine, The same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine." -- Johnny Mercer

Richard 12:12 PM  

I am impressed that the two long downs, both of which I like, each cross three theme answers.

Andrew Heinegg 12:14 PM  

Thank you Lewis. Your factoid and quotoid posts are always interesting and entertaining even when the puzzle is not.

dick swart 12:17 PM  

A very nice Monday puzzle. Start with first letter in the NW corner end with final letter in the SE corner. And an enjoyable trip along the way.

A stimulating junp start to my olde brain cells on a cold and icy morning in Hood River, OR

LaneB 12:37 PM  

Harder than the usual Monday with lots of pop stuff to flummox us novice oldies. The mid-western bloc with PACMAN, ASHTON, TECS[?], PATTI, ASHER CHICKMAGNET Aand MTGS[?] caused me to get some Google help. And caused me a bit of grumpiness. Finished, but didn't feel good about it.

TimJim 3:50 PM  

I like that the theme was not word- or letter-related, but completely "off the grid." Different, fresh.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

Kofi and Efua (sister)
Ashton and Michael
Vin and Paul
Mario and Aldo

Teedmn 5:43 PM  

More trivia: KOFI ANNAN finished his undergraduate studies in St Paul, MN at Macalester College.

A nice puzzle by Mr. McMoy and a fun review by @Rex, though I'm with @Leapy and others - where is all the Yin he's Yanging about.

Relatively typical Monday solve for me, didn't get the theme until I got here since TWINS fell with crosses. No IRKS with the theme!

Carola 10:49 PM  

@Leapfinger - And how about this stepwise grid message: CHICK AGED: I C CRONE :) Loved your post.

Stacey Bruno 2:12 AM  

How i got my husband back.Am Stacey Bruno by name I never believed in love spells or magic until I met this spell caster once when i went to see my friend in Indian this year on a business summit. I meant a man who's name is Dr ATILA he is really powerful and could help cast spells to bring back one's gone, lost, misbehaving lover and magic money spell or spell for a good job or luck spell .I'm now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 5 weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 3years. I really loved him, but his mother was against us and he had no good paying job. So when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him. At first i was undecided,skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try. And in 7 days when i returned to Canada, my boyfriend (now husband) called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and family and he got a new job interview so we should get married. I didn't believe it cos the Dr ATILA only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do. Well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid, and my husband also got the new job and our lives became much better. His email is:

spacecraft 11:49 AM  

I feel like it's my day off. Hardly had to move a few brain cells around. But it was fun, finding out that people I never suspected were TWINS, were. I mean, KOFI ANNAN? Who knew?

The start in the NW box was a nice surprise: everything a real word! Okay, so one Yiddish one, but still. If that level of fill had been maintained throughout, it would have earned an A+ and a gold star. But for ORI,IRES and UHS, it nearly did. Go with A-.

2305. EMPTY.

rain forest 1:38 PM  

Well, I didn't know that all those guys played baseball, let alone for the Minnesota TWINS.

I once read a funny piece about George Dubya mulling over WMD and Iraq, and trying to figure out the UN guy's name, and every time his aide says "KOFI", Bush says, "sure, cream and sugar". I guess you had to actually be there.

I found this easy, smooth, and not too IRKsome.

I just know I'm going to get a check again. Yep.

DMG 2:19 PM  

Lots of proper names in this one. However this time Imsomehow managed them all with a last second change from IRwIN to IRVIN. Not really acquainted with him or his cross partner. Also,learned PACMAN is a ghost. I just saw him a a pie shaped monster. Now to see if this gets posted. Last week's attempts showed up momentarily and then disappeared into the ether! Maybe something to do with this new Captcha beast?

1202 knew he was not liking me!

Texas Syndy Solver 4:12 PM  

@leapfinger - I disagree! I think Demi Moore was Ashton Kutcher's big mistake. He has since moved on to Mila Kunis who he should have been with from the beginning. At least she wasn't too old to give him kids. But I'm in Syndyland you probably will never read this!!

Regarding the puzzle - I thought it was great; if not a little more difficult than the usual Monday.

Texas Syndy Solver 4:38 PM  

@DMG - PACMAN isn't a ghost but there are ghosts in the game chasing him.

rain forest 3:05 AM  

@Texas Syndy Solver - you are right, @leapfinger won't read your post because she only wants to impress the regular solvers with her wordsmithery. At any rate, although you may not read this, I appreciate your comment.

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