Rookie Corner – 199

A Puzzle by Skinny

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

Our latest setter making his debut in Rookie Corner is Skinny. As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review by Prolixic follows.

A confident debut from Skinny.  There was very little fat to trim when reviewing this crossword.  With the exception of 1d, there was little of note on the clues other than to highlight a few areas to be polished a little.  This is a good sign of things to come.  The only other point to note is that 10 anagrams out of 30 clues is a little on the high side.  There was a hidden theme with the names of some home computers from the 1980s forming solutions.

Across

1 Pictured Parisian artist retiring in life cut short at first (9)
ENVISAGED – Reverse (retiring) the name of a French (Parisian) artist and precede it (at first) with the French for “in life” with the final letter removed (cut short).  I wonder whether the wordplay is specific enough to indicate that it is both the artist and the “in life” that has to be French.

6 Bend sinister? (4)
ARCH – Double definition, the first for a curve and the second for something sly or sinister.  The phrase in the clue is device used to denote illegitimacy in heraldic shields.

8 Inventor of microcomputers first abandoned by reckless criminals (8)
SINCLAIR – An anagram (reckless) of CRIMINALS after removing the M (microcomputers first).  The microcomputers needs an ‘s at the end of the clue for this to word grammatically. 

9 Samphire’s taken from the sea? On the contrary, when cooked it’s seafood. (6)
SHRIMP – An anagram (cooked) of SAMPHIRE after removing the letters in SEA with the “on the contrary” reversed the order of what is removed from what.  As the letters in SEA are removed in a different order a subsidiary anagram indicator is required.  A question mark is a very weak form of indicator.  Perhaps restless or stormy could have been used.

10 Hike price of brolly covering 40% of Zulus (6)
GAZUMP – A four letter (informal) word for an umbrella goes around the first two letters (40%) of Zulus. 

11 Dish served hot and cold with aplomb (4,4)
LAMB CHOP – An anagram (served) of H (hot) C (cold) APLOMB.

12 “A tough patch“, might The Samaritans say? (6)
CALLUS – Split 4,2 the solution might be what the Samaritans say to someone who is in distress.

15 Notice possibility of acceptance (8)
ADOPTION – A two letter word for an advert or notice followed by a six letter word indicating a possibility.

16 Muscle engaged in finger span (8)
SPECTRUM – A three letter word for a muscle inside (engaged in) a word meaning to finger (as you would play a guitar).

19 Crawlers desert country, touring south (3-3)
YES-MEN – The name of an African country around (touring) the abbreviation for South.

21 Primitive tea, for example, taken outside scruffy dive (8)
MEDIEVAL – A four letter for what tea (in food rather than drink terms) is around (taken outside) an anagram (scruffy) of DIVE.

22 A quiet place, a quiet crowd (6)
ASHRAM – The A from the clue followed by a two letter word meaning quiet and a three letter word meaning to push or to crowd something.

24 Puff of smoke (6)
DRAGON – Split 4,2 this would mean smoke.  As the definition is a definition by example, this should have been indicated.

25 You and me returning before collecting event’s first prize (8)
SUPERIOR – Reverse (returning) the two letter word meaning you and me and follow these letters with a word meaning before with the first letter of event being included (collecting).

26 For each drug swallowed there’s a count, for example (4)
PEER – A three letter word meaning “for each” includes (swallowed) the abbreviation for ecstasy.

27 Glut of flies evenly blended with protein shake (9)
REPLETION – An anagram (shake) of LE (the even letters in flies) PROTEIN.  I think that shake after the letters to be rearranged does not work in the cryptic reading of the clue.  As you already have blended you could omit the shake entirely to have A blended with B.

Down

1 Type of heather I can’t extract (5)
ERICA – The answer is hidden in HEATHER I CANT.  The only major point in this crossword is that heather here is doing double duty as part of the definition and the wordplay.

2 Food cut roughly and stuffed in bottle (7)
VICTUAL –  An anagram(roughly) of CUT inside (stuffed in) a four letter word for a small bottle.

3 Scalpel’s first instrument for cutting (5)
SHARP – The first letter of scalpel followed by a stringed instrument.  As first has already been used as an initial letter indicator perhaps a different way of indicating this should have been used.

4 Channel hijacked by Indian state thug (7)
GORILLA – A four letter word for a small stream or channel inside a three letter word for an Indian state.

5 Free spirit – I do my beds untidily (9)
DISEMBODY – An anagram (untidily) of I DO MY BEDS. 

6 No end of tropical exotic fruit (7)
APRICOT – An anagram (exotic) of TROPICAL with the final letter removed (no end).  Again, grammatically, exotic as an anagram indicator should precede the letters to be rearranged.

7 Skipper‘s potty, hoarding gold (9)
COMMODORE – A seven letter word for a potty or item of furniture that holds a chamber pot around (hoarding) a two letter word for gold.

13 Parrot eats stormy petrel – it’s an excellent source of nutrition (5,4)
APPLE TREE – A three letter word meaning parrot or copy around (eats) an anagram (stormy) of PETREL.

14 Writer scraps compositions initially, torn apart with little hesitation (9)
SCRIVENER – The first letters (initially) of scraps and compositions followed by a five letter word meaning torn apart and a two letter word used to express hesitation.

17 Hanger-on about to hang around (7)
CLINGER – A single letter abbreviation for circa or about followed by a six letter word meaning to hang around.

18 Polish consume varieties of chicken (7)
MILKSOP – A three letter word meaning polish around (consume) a four letter word meaning varieties.  I think that the synonym here is a little loose (to polish is not to mop) and, cryptically, is should be A consumes B.  Also, in terms of the structure, some editors will permit definition of wordplay but not wordplay of definition.

20 Lively movements portrayed in some Escher zig-zag designs (7)
SCHERZI – The answer is hidden in (portrayed in some) ESCHER ZIG-ZAG.  The word designs is padding for the surface reading but could have been omitted by making the zig-zag plural.

22 Handsome politician gripped by booze (5)
AMPLE – The two letter abbreviation for Member of Parliament inside a three letter word for beer.

23 Synthetic carbon black removed – could be the start of something big (5)
ACORN – An anagram (synthetic) of CARBON after removing the abbreviation for black.


44 responses to “Rookie Corner – 199

  1. We started off putting stars beside the clues we liked but when we had created the Southern Cross and were halfway through Orion we decided we would give that a miss and just give a big tick to the whole puzzle. Still chortling over 7d which really appealed to us. Quite tricky but we were never tempted to give up on anything. It might be Skinny’s first puzzle here but would bet that it is not a first ever attempt at setting.
    Thanks Skinny, well done.

  2. Like the 2 Kiwis, except I was using ticks rather than stars, the page was breaking out in some sort of rash.

    There were a couple of clues that caused an umm:

    22a – not an obvious (for me) synonym of crowd as part of the answer.
    18d – another not an obvious (for me) synonym of varieties as part of the answer.

    I did have to check 27a in the BRB for validity.

    The big ticks went to:

    9a – I liked the ‘contrary’ deletion to get the anagram material.
    10a – haven’t seen that name for a brolly for a long time.
    24a – short and sweet and, fortunately and assuming I have parsed the first word of the clue correctly, I could still remember the Peter, Paul, and Mary song.
    14d – a very good charade with its different types of elements.
    17d – just very good.
    20d – always nice to see a good lurker, and I liked that it was the (Italian) pluralisation of a common musical term.

    Well done Skinny and thank you.

  3. This is a great puzzle with some clever inventions (e.g. 1ac and 9ac) and wordplay (lots!) – well done!
    I’m not sure what the Northern Hemisphere equivalent of the 2Kiwis comment would be – Ursae Major & Minor plus the Pleiades, perhaps – loads of stars from me here too, anyway!

    Nice theme – I suspect I’ve missed several but I think I can find eight.

    The majority of the puzzle is of high quality, so please treat any comments below as VERY minor refinements:
    – 6d I’m slowly getting fussier about simply placing an anagram indicator alongside the fodder, if it grammatically doesn’t seem to work. When it’s a preceding verb then fine; even if vocative / order, e.g. muddle then fine. Less sure about followed by an adjective anagram indicator. It’s probably just me, though?
    – 1d ‘heather’ doing double duty. Works for me.
    – 9a clever construction. Perhaps ’sea’ needs a jumble_indicator, or perhaps ‘bit by bit’, to say these letters are being taken out individually from SAMPHIRES. Having re-read it, I think perhaps your ‘?’ does this already.
    – 26a To be read as: “For each (with) drug swallowed”, I’m assuming. ok.
    – 3d good use of ‘cutting’ as an adjective
    – 5d good. I always like the disguised verbs!
    – 20d does ‘designs’ have any cryptic purpose, or simply there to improve the surface? If only the latter then maybe delete it and change to ‘zig-zags’ (plural)?
    – 15a very good
    – 6a good. Does it need the QM?
    – 24a good. Though it slightly spoils the surface, ’Puff’ needs a Definition By Example indicator? A simple ‘e.g.’ at the start of the clue doesn’t spoil it too much
    – 2d ok, Perhaps replacing the ‘and’ with a comma would be better? [Crikey, if that’s all I have to comment upon then this puzzle really is good!]
    – 18d verb form not quite right for both surface and cryptic (one needs an -s). Easily fixable with ‘consuming’
    – 25a very good
    – 22a LOI. wasn’t certain with ‘RAM’ for ‘crowd’, assuming I am parsing it correctly. I see the Chambers Crossword Dictionary has CROWD for RAM but not v.v. I am never quite sure how to read it when that happens!
    Really enjoyed it – many thanks Skinny! And I hope these comments help. I’ll definitely look out with interest for your next.
    -Encota-

  4. This is a very impressive debut – thanks Skinny. I particularly liked the cleverness of 9a and the laugh-inducing 7d.

  5. A very impressive puzzle – definitely not Skinny’s first venture into crossword setting I’d say

    Thanks to Skinny and, in advance, to Prolixic

  6. Thanks Skinny, super puzzle and very enjoyable.
    I generally liked how you used your clue structure to disguise your definitions.
    I didn’t think there were any duff clues, only a slight over-reliance on anagrams and in particular elaborate anagram constructions.
    My favourites, not in any order, were 6a (great idea), 12a, 5d (loved the definition) 7d, 13d, 17d, but plenty of other ticks too.
    There were quite a few ofs as link words, which can seem a bit odd. In 1d, heather is doing double duty, though it doesn’t cause a problem. I liked in 8a that ‘inventor’ is fine as a stand-alone definition, but you’ve given an extra nudge. However, I was misled by the lack of an apostrophe ‘microcomputers first’, which made me try and make the anagram from [c]RIMINALS

  7. Welcome, Skinny.

    Lots of ticks from this solver too, an immensely enjoyable puzzle with some very clever wordplay that does you credit. Three quarters of the crossword was pitched at just the right level of difficulty, I felt, but the SW corner took me much longer than the other three combined.

    Encota has already raised a few of my question marks, i.e. the definition and wordplay overlapping in 1d, the fact that “designs” made no contribution to the wordplay in 20d, and whether a definition by example indicator should have been included in 24a. In addition, I thought 6a would have been improved by reversing the word order and I’d suggest cutting back the anagram count in your next puzzle, ten full or partial anagrams is certainly pushing the boundaries of acceptability.

    My unqualified ticks: 11a, 15a, 22a, 4d, 6d and 7d. My qualified ticks (i.e. I liked the clue construction but was unsure about the surface or execution): 1a, 9a, 19a, 25a, 26a, 5d and 13d.

    I concur that it was a very impressive debut. Congratulations and many thanks.

      • Thanks, Mucky, I’ve certainly never heard of it! Does it actually qualify as a cryptic clue therefore, I’m not sure the question mark suffices for that?

          • Paradoxically, a bend sinister is not a bend – it’s a straight diagonal stripe on a heraldic shield, running from top right to bottom left, the left side being, in heraldic terminology, the sinister side. But for all that I thought 6ac was a great clue. I think the question mark is to acknowledge that ‘arch’ might not be exactly equivalent to ‘sinister’, but it’s close enough for me.

            • Yes, I think you’re right, Exit. I knew some heraldic terms, especially colours, but this one had escaped me until today, which is why I had initially interpreted it as merely a double definition. I’m not sure how widely known the term is, but if one is aware of it, it certainly makes one appreciate the clue more.

  8. Hello Skinny and thanks for a great debut.

    When I saw 1d it gave me doubts about whether the cryptic grammar here was going to be sound. Fortunately, my fears were soon assuaged and I enjoyed this. I didn’t solve with a red pen to hand, trusting that others would cover that stuff much better than I could, and the only other things that I noticed at all were the insertion indicator in 8d and the need for a definition by example indicator in 24a. (Even so, I really like that clue.)

    My favourite clues are 19a (I like the way “desert” is used), 7d, 13d (love the stormy petrel!) and 17d (beautiful surface produced by unfussy wordplay). I also liked the 15a (neat and tidy) 14d, and 23d for the “synthetic carbon.”

    I missed the theme at the time but see it now – thanks Encota!

    Thanks again to Skinny, and in advance to Prolixic for his analysis.

  9. Most enjoyable & fully parsed which, for me, is not always the case for Rookie puzzles.
    Many thanks Skinny and tomorrow’s reviewer.

  10. I found this very tricky indeed, and had to reveal a letter or two for 12A, my last one in. I also spent far too long thinking 1D was an anagram. I’m impressed with the overall quality. My top picks are 7D, 13D and 24A. Thanks, Skinny.

  11. I’ve enjoyed this very much but found it difficult.
    I thought the top half was less tricky than the bottom and now I’m stuck with my last four answers all in the bottom right corner.
    I haven’t spotted a theme – if I could I might be able to finish off my last few.
    Off to do something else for a while and see if that helps but in the meantime thanks and well done to Skinny and thanks, in advance, to Prolixic.

    • Just ignore all this – had I put 22d where it was meant to go instead of where 23d should have been all my problems would have been sorted. :roll:
      I still can’t do 12a and would never have spotted the theme – not quite my specialty and it probably wouldn’t have helped anyway.
      Lots of clever clues – I particularly liked 22 and 24a.
      Thanks again to Skinny.

  12. It took me quite a while to get on wavelength. I was concerned that the first two clues I solved appeared to be slightly flawed (1d where heather is doing double duty; and 20d where “designs” is padding) and considered giving up at that point. However I am very glad I didn’t as it turned out to be a very fine puzzle, and as others have suggested it may be a first appearance in Rookie Corner but it is very unlikely to be the setter’s first offering.

    I was interested to read Silvanus’ comments about the varying difficulty as it was something I experienced except that, in my case, I found the whole of the LHS very tough indeed.

    I can’t fully parse 1a & 8a, and I don’t understand “place” = “ram” in 22a; “polish” = “mop” in 18d; and why the source of nutrition in 13d is “excellent”.

    I didn’t spot the theme partly because I needed to concentrate so hard to solve the puzzle.

    7d is my runaway favourite but lots more wouldn’t disgrace that accolade.

    Many thanks Skinny, and here’s hoping we see another one from you soon.

    • Not place, that’s the def, it’s crowd=ram, which works for me.

      Excellent because it keeps the doctor away, perhaps…

      Great to see you Saturday.

      • Sorry, Dutch, I typed the wrong word in my comment. I still don’t get crowd = ram. :sad:

        Great to see you too. It was an excellent gathering.

        • Hi Dave – crowd=ram as in the verb – to crowd a space (club, lift, car, etc) is to ram it. That was the intention.

        • Rammed=crowded perhaps, and crowd(v) is in the thesaurus under ram, (not vice-versa) although It’d need to be qualified as I don’t think they are direct synonyms of one-another.
          Thesauritis maybe.

  13. I thought this was very good and as others have commented, hard to imagine this is a first effort.
    Similar experience to RD except I think I’ve got the parsing sorted now, at a stretch.
    The double duty stood out immediately.
    I think I would have been tempted to edit out the more obscure words for Rookie level; CC often throws in some typically computer-esque grid fills that are not pretty in my opinion. Perhaps the theme exacerbates this?
    There’s one or two points I can’t quite put my finger on, so I wait with interest for Polixic’s review.

    A good puzzle overall so thanks and well done Skinny.

  14. Hello everyone. Thank you so much for the kind comments, and points on cluing and so forth. It’s all good and I will take everything on board. I’m immediately going back to spruce up the next few I have ready to go, to make them a little sharper, to shave off the extraneous bits. I’m at the very beginning here, so I really do appreciate all comments.

    This is indeed my first public outing for a puzzle. I have been doing them for a year or so, with my father-in-law passing helpful comments (he’s won the Guardian Prize more than I have, so I value his input!). Also assisting with comment on previous non-public attempts has been Hamish (Soup), whose comment and suggestions I value greatly.

    Personally – I made the decision to give setting a real go about a year ago, after 30 years of doing the Guardian daily, Prize, Everyman and Azed. What is abundantly clear is that doing crosswords does not equate to being able to set them. Not by a long chalk. I have a lot – an enormous amount – to get right, in terms of protocol, what indicators to use, when, and how etc. I have been to classes run by Paul and Boatman, and will be attending more in the near future. At this stage, I’m just devouring every book I can find, and have just finished Alec Robin’s superb ‘Teach Yourself Crosswords’

    Once again – thank you so much for the kind comments and pointers on where to go next, it’s hugely appreciated.

    Finally, the setters I’ve admired over the years are – Custos, Bunthorne, Araucaria, Paul, Arachne, Boatman and Brendan. Inter alia. The list could double or triple and I’d still mean it.

    • Hi Skinny. I have not attempted this puzzle but may do so, who knows? I have had three puzzles posted in Rookie Corner under the name MP. What I would say is that a decent test solver is an absolute must. You will see from the comments who might help here. They will not be as forgiving as your Father-In-Law but willl not be unkind and will certainly be very helpful. BD will put you in touch with somebody if you ask.

  15. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Skinny.
    I wasn’t sure at first if I was going to get on with this puzzle but it grew on me. I’ve already posted an aside about 6ac, and there were plenty of other good clues, with the only real write-ins being 10ac and possibly 7dn. Quite a bit of thought required to tease out some of the answers, which is as it should be. I particularly liked 11, 16 and 21 across, and 14 and 20 down. Just a few quibbles:
    in 2dn ‘and’ seems to be superfluous – “Food roughly cut, stuffed into bottle” could be an alternative;
    in 4dn I’m not sure that ‘rill’ is exactly synonymous with ‘channel’
    in 18dn does ‘ilk’ ever occur in the plural?
    and in 22ac, if I’ve parsed it correctly, I’m not sure that the answer can be used to describe the ‘crowd’ gathered there , though presumably they are ‘quiet’.
    A good debut and I look forward to more from you.

  16. One of the best debuts I can remember on Rookie Corner – bravo Skinny!
    The most impressive thing was how well you judged the level of difficulty, which normally takes several puzzles and lots of feedback to get right – well done indeed on that. SE corner was the hardest, but certainly not too hard, I’d say.

    The cryptic grammar was generally flawless – I could only see one item which I would be confident will draw comment from Prolixic – the extra word on the end of 20d, which has already been mentioned above. Personally I wasn’t fond of crowd=ram or polish=mop, but the clues were solvable none the less.

    I had 18 ticks plus five double ticks – a truly exceptional haul, that. And now Mucky has taught me how clever 6a is, maybe that deserves one too. The doubles were for 1a, 12a, 16a 24a and 25a. All of those were top drawer excellence.

    Oh, and I’m sorry to say the theme was too subtle for this solver to notice it, sorry.

    • Sorry, meant SW corner the hardest – oops!
      Good to read this is a genuine debut – very encouraging, and you’ve done the right thing to ask BD to host your puzzles – looking forward to the next one!

  17. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Skinny (I wonder whether that’s descriptive of body shape or the type of coffee you prefer!).

    This was definitely an accomplished debut puzzle although I did find it quite hard work and turned to the BRB on several occasions to verify some of the definitions used.
    You obviously understand how to use wordplay to good effect but take care that it doesn’t leave you in a difficult position with regard to writing a clue that has a decent surface read – 1a springs to mind.

    My ticks went to 15&16a plus 7&22d.

    Many thanks, Skinny, hope we get more from you in the future.

  18. Well done Skinny! an excellent puzzle. I tried to comment earlier but something odd happened, so I’ll try again.

    plenty of ticks/stars/whatever, I liked 9a 11a, 15a, 22a, 3d, 4d, 7d, 14d, 17d, 18d 22d, 23d so that is pretty good going!

    Not easy though. Took me a while. I got hung up on NW, south seemed ok to me. I didn’t know the inventor, guess everyone else did, but maybe there’s a mild warning about gk there. And of course i missed the theme, what would we do without Encota. So, the theme makes it even more spectacular – well done!! and yes, microcomputer’s needs an apostrophe for the clue to work.

    Much as i liked 9a and 13a, i wondered if with a little more effort you might have smoothened out the surfaces a bit more.

    the hiddens did not work, you can’t have heather doing double duty in both definition and wordplay unless you have an &lit, which this isn’t – and you should not have superfluous fodder like design.

    2d ‘and’ does not read well cryptically, ‘is’ would work, or just omit

    I was fine with mop and crowd, but less keen on finger (thinking guitar – means something quite different to the synonym in the answer) and wasn’t sure about dish – i think of that meaning a meal rather than a component of one? maybe it’s ok.

    my LOI was samaritans – i didn’t know what they say. Puff is GK again and not sure about the ‘of’ – ‘and’?

    and yes, a cryptic grammar issue with 18d, need consumes, fix would be consuming as mentioned earlier.

    But loads to keep us entertained and pretty good stuff al around, so congratulations. Keep it up and I look forward to the next one

    • ‘puff of’ i think is fine now, as in def of wordplay. but it is a definition by example, which ought to be indicated as mentioned earlier.

  19. Excellent stuff, Skinny, well done. I managed this with the aid of my usual cheats and a couple of reveal letters to get me going again, so probably a good difficulty!
    I don’t have much to add about the grammar; the things I noted such as in 1d, 2d and 18d have already been mentioned.
    My favourites were 12a, 19a, 5d, 7d, 13d, 22d – which seem to be different to everyone else’s!
    Regarding the surfaces, I think that something doesn’t have to be realistic, but it has to be able to create a picture. So in 13d, it is clearly nonsense, but it is fun nonsense that makes an interesting image, and I liked the use of stormy petrel. Compare that to the brolly covering 40% of Zulus, which just seems contrived and slightly odd.
    Similarly, compare 7d, where an image of a mad ship’s captain hiding his loot is easy to come by (plus a nice bit of toilet humour), whereas blending flies in a protein shake, one would just ask why?
    Please note that these are comments that would usually be mentioned to someone on their nth puzzle, this is a very impressive start, congratulations.

  20. Nice puzzle Skinny. Sorry – can’t go into detail as I’ve binned my notes but I don’t recall having any quibbles – maybe a couple of minor observations. I do recall that it was fairly anagram-rich – often you need to do that if you are pitching at a reasonably easy outcome – but having said that it’s worth trying a few other clue-types as well to even things out a bit and provide variety.

    The anagram clues gave me a good toehold without which it might have been quite a tougher solve overall – so although easy as apuzzle there was still plenty of meat to chew on.

    Great work – do keep them coming.

  21. Reading through the review – and some of the comments – one point about 18dn has been the equivalence or otherwise of ‘mop’ and ‘polish’. Generally fair comment I think, but, in Skinny’s defence, there are such things as polishing mops to be found in engineering workshops as well as cleaners’ cupboards.

  22. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic. The more I learn about the conventions of setting, the more it surprises me that people are still prepared to ‘give it a go’! Thank goodness that they do.

  23. I’ve just realised I had a wrong answer – no wonder I thought there were a couple of weird words. D’oh!

  24. One point I don’t think anyone has mentioned is the grid. I found this very much a puzzle of four quarters. That makes solving harder. I don’t think I’ve seen a grid before with that large black block in the middle. I suspect you may have designed the layout yourself to fit all the themers in? (What were they all, btw? I only recognised about four). It was a good grid apart from that aspect, though.

    I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I failed to get CALLUS (doh!). Well done and thanks very much.

    • Hi, and thanks for the kind words. The grid is one of The Guardian’s standard set. I chose is as it was the one that CC could fit the most words from my list in. After that, I chose the words.The theme words were Sinclair, Spectrum, Dragon, Apple, Sharp, Apricot, Commodore and Acorn, all 80’s computer brands.

      • Thanks, Skinny. I’d completely forgotten the Apricot was a micro, even though I did tecnical support on them and the “.32” LAN used to link them in the mid-eighties. We suppress the most terrible
        memories, don’t we?

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