DT 28679 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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DT 28679

Daily Telegraph Cryptic No 28679

Hints and tips by Mr K

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BD Rating  -  Difficulty *** Enjoyment ***


Hello, everyone.  Making up for last Tuesday's puzzle which featured just one anagram, today we have no less than eight clues of that type.  Normally I'd expect a large number like that to reduce the difficulty of the puzzle, but today I finished in a time that's around average.  Perhaps I was detuned from the correct wavelength, or perhaps it's more difficult than it looks.  I look forward to hearing what everyone else made of it.

Last week there was a cruciverbal doomsday story going around predicting that within fifteen years human setters would be redundant and all crosswords would be compiled by computers.  I find that article to be a wee bit sensational (possibly because the soon-to-be-jobless compiler has a book to promote), but it does raise an interesting question:  would we be happy solving crosswords set by a computer?  I don't think I would be.  I like the feeling of competing against an actual person, and that feeling is enhanced when we know something about the setter or when they post a comment on the relevant blog.  I'm not going to run a full-blown survey on this topic, but perhaps it's something we can discuss in today's comments.

In the hints below definitions are underlined (dashed where they overlap wordplay), and most indicators are italicized.  The answers will be revealed by clicking on the buttons.  In some hints hyperlinks provide additional explanation or background.  Clicking on a picture will enlarge it or display a bonus illustration.  Please leave a comment telling us how you got on.



1a    Recently taken photographs showing smart guys? (8)
HOTSHOTS:  Split (3,5) the answer could be an informal description of photographs that are either fresh or recently taken stolen

5a    Heedless, bishop put a match to explosive (6)
BLITHE:  Combine the chess abbreviation for bishop, a short word for put a match to, and the usual abbreviation for High Explosive

9a    She may attend to a babe in arms due to be changed (9)
NURSEMAID:  An anagram (to be changed) of IN ARMS DUE.  A nice semi-all-in-one clue

11a   Had in mind poor time (5)
MEANT:  Join poor or humble and the physics symbol for time

12a   Party held by trendy men under a roof (6)
INDOOR:  A usual party is sandwiched between (held by) a usual adjective for trendy or fashionable and some usual soldiers (men)

13a   Forebear -- no trace, regrettably, across South (8)
ANCESTOR:  An anagram (regrettably) of NO TRACE containing (across) an abbreviation for South

15a   German dog in fine French spa, barking (13)
AFFENPINSCHER:  An anagram (barking) of FINE FRENCH SPA.  The literal translation of this dog breed is monkey terrier.  Not sure that I'm seeing any resemblance

18a   A butcher and I in mix-up about a steak (13)
CHATEAUBRIAND:  An anagram (in mix-up) of A BUTCHER AND I containing (about) A from the clue

      Newspaper version:  Suspicious, a butcher and I about a steak (13)
      An anagram (suspicious) of A BUTCHER AND I containing (about) A from the clue

22a   Recommend  Scottish barrister (8)
ADVOCATE:  A double definition.  Recommend or endorse, and the Scottish equivalent of a barrister

23a   Scattered surplus, holding spades (6)
SPARSE:  Surplus or left over, containing (holding) the playing card abbreviation for spades

26a   Disgusting dirt in lift distressed hospital (5)
FILTH:  An anagram (distressed) of LIFT, followed by the road sign abbreviation for hospital

27a   Criticise the piper's son and me after one show (9)
PANTOMIME:  Concatenate criticize or review harshly, the piper’s son of nursery rhyme fame, the Roman numeral for one, and ME from the clue

28a   Fairly  uniformly (6)
EVENLY:  A straightforward double definition

29a   Stickler, soldier holding tense talks at the front (8)
MARTINET:  A soldier serving on board ship containing (holding) the abbreviation for tense and followed by the first letter of Talks (talks at the front).  The stickler of the answer is a strict disciplinarian



1d    Operative and I cover obstacle (8)
HANDICAP:  Stick together an operative or labourer, I from the clue, and a cover or lid

2d    Played out, even round river (5)
TIRED:  Even (such as when the score is 1-1) is wrapped around the map abbreviation for river

3d    The man circling round floor presenting dance (7)
HOEDOWN:  A pronoun for the man containing (circling) the round letter, followed by a verb for floor or fell.  Keith Emerson received a lot of admiration in the most recent NTSPP.  So, here's Emerson, Lake & Palmer playing a fitting Aaron Copeland composition

4d    Some shown up in bunker (4)
TRAP:  The reversal (shown up, in a down clue) of some or not all.  Here's an example, inspired by a cat's paw, of the relevant type of bunker

6d    Branagh's lead in 'Hamlet' excited London borough (7)
LAMBETH:  The first letter (…’s lead) of Branagh inserted in an anagram (excited) of HAMLET

7d    Fare for Italians to get here? (9)
TRATTORIA:  A cryptic definition of an establishment serving Italian food

8d    Unabridged in content, I realised (6)
ENTIRE:  The letters of the answer are hiding in the remainder of the clue

10d   Old fogey around is in need of treatment (8)
DINOSAUR:  An anagram (… in need of treatment) of AROUND IS

14d   Skirt round crew on stage (8)
SIDESTEP:  A crew or team, and a stage in a process or recipe

16d   Apparent worth of clock prize (4,5)
FACE VALUE:  The body part informally called your clock, and prize or treasure

17d   Supporter of that woman during a depression (8)
ADHERENT:  A pronoun for that woman inserted in (during) A from the clue and a depression or hollow.  Definite feeling of déjà vu with this clue

19d   Husband over in local, shiftily getting booze (7)
ALCOHOL:  Abbreviations for husband and for over are inserted in an anagram (shiftily) of LOCAL

20d   Sort of music and drink to bring affinity (7)
RAPPORT:  A musical genre beloved of crossword compilers (but not of most blog readers), and a fortified wine drink 

21d   Fox, fine female in pack (6)
BAFFLE:  Abbreviations for fine and female are inserted in a pack, of wool or hay possibly

24d   Check about key monarchy (5)
REIGN:  Check or restrain containing (about) a letter representing a musical key

25d   Male leaves unexpected gift for girl (4)
ANNA:  Take an unexpected gift, proverbially from heaven, and delete the abbreviation for male (male leaves)


Thanks to today’s setter for an enjoyable solve.  Lots to like today, including the smooth surface of the long anagram 18a, but my gold medal goes to the nice semi-all-in-one 9a.  Which clues did you like best?


The Quick Crossword pun:  HIGHER+DOUBT=HIRED OUT

75 comments on “DT 28679

  1. 2.5* / 4*. Another very good puzzle. This all fell into place quite smoothly but the NW corner held me up slightly taking my time above 2*. 4d was my last one in.

    I’m not sure that 7d quite works, but, that apart, there was a lot to enjoy. 21d was my favourite, with 9a also deserving a special mention.

    Many thanks to Mr Ron and Mr K.

    1. 7d is a cryptic definition, plus what I’d call “full surface misdirection”. The whole clue is a crafty statement to try and trick the reader into thinking about travelling Italians and their ticket cost to get here.

  2. Steady solve today, and a **/**** for me, well clued throughout.
    Charades are my favourite and I liked 27a.
    Not familiar with the dog, thanks to Mr K for the explanation of the long name.
    I noted RD’S comments re 7d and I assumed it was just a cryptic clue.
    Excellent blog pics by Mr K. Liked the squirrel-we have tame ones which literally knock at the window for nuts-I know they are a pest but they are entertaining.
    Have to admit I had ‘hideout’ for the Quickie pun

    1. Beaver, I agree 7d is a cryptic clue but it doesn’t quite work for me because the cryptic reading would need to be “to be got here”.

          1. All agreed that it is a cryptic definition, and RD is correct with his cryptic reading, my initial thoughts were that it did not quite work but I left it at that.

            1. The clue would be more lucid as: Fare for Italians to get – here? But the setter has quite rightly left out the punctuation so that the (full) surface misdirection is created/maintained. With these cryptic definitions, absolutely precise grammar/syntax isn’t compulsory or always expected (certainly not by me). Though, in this case, I don’t see a real problem with the clue reading.

              1. Of course, my “full surface misdirection” is probably “pun” to anyone else. But I know what I mean :-)

      1. 7d worked for me as somewhere for Italians to get fare. Maybe read more as “[there is] fare for Italians to get here.”

        1. Yes! It’s just a cryptic/obscure way of saying: The answer is an example of where you can get Italian fare.

    2. Regarding tame squirrels, I met one who would sit on my lap to eat nuts. I know you shouldn’t feed them, but I couldn’t resist that.

  3. Very similar to yesterday’s – about average difficulty, very good clues and highly enjoyable. Didn’t know the dog or the steak, but gettable from the checkers and a touch of Google confirmation. 2.5* / 4*

  4. Lots to enjoy in this Tuesday offering. I particularly liked the long anagrams, with 21d a lovely concise clue and 6d my favourite. For no good reason other than one has to be last, 20d was my final entry. Overall this was 2.5* /4* for me, with many thanks to our setter and to Mr K for an interesting blog.

  5. Needed electronic help for the NW corner, so harder for me today .

    Thanks to the setter and to Mr K.

  6. Somewhat fair to middling for my liking and not helped by the plethora of anagrams but I do appreciate they are exactly some people’s cup of tea. Like RD I too found 7d difficult to come to terms with. Certainly haven’t come across the 15a monkey terrier before and just maybe I wont need it in the future. 5a just qualifies as a Fav for me. Not sure where the 9a illustration comes into it! Thank you Mysteron and Mr.K.

  7. This felt quite hard and kept me thinking throughout. It took me a while to get going too, but then I didn’t take the earliest opportunity to untangle the long anagrams (I generally leave those until I have plenty of crossers or am stuck). There were also a few bits where I was missing the obvious, further evidence that the difficult one may have been me rather than the puzzle.

    I liked the alliterative 21d, but favourite has to be 9a.

    Thanks to the setter and blogger.

  8. Possibly the most gentle Tuesday puzzle in a while, but very enjoyable for all of that. 1a & 1d held me up almost to the end and for that reason I make them my favourite clues. As for robot setters? That gets a huge no – no from me. I’d have to find some other form of entertainment should that ever happen. Thanks to today’s setter and Mr K.

  9. I would agree with a *** rating today. The German dog was the last one in, as soon as I realised it didn’t end in HUND, I knew I was in deep water.

    Many thanks to the setter (Or was it a Setter???) and Mr. K.

  10. Nice workout – 1a I read as stolen , rather than fresh . Needed a list of European dog breeds for 15a , such a long name for a short pooch .
    Thanks both

    1. I also thought that ‘recently taken’ meant stolen but Mr K’s explanation works as well.
      I found this quite tricky for a Tuesday back-pager (more so than the Toughie in fact). Thanks to the unknown setter and Mr K.

    2. Thanks, Dave. I think your interpretation of 1a is probably what the compiler had in mind. I will add it to the hint.

  11. Fairly steady solve today, sped along slightly by the excess of anagrams. [**`/****]
    SE corner was last to fall into place but got quickly filled in once the letters started coming.
    9a was probably a favourite, though 6d managed to get a certain song on repeat in my head for the rest of the solving session. :)

    On the topic of automated setters, I agree with Mr K on that. Wouldn’t be the same without the human competition. Being currently in the throes of building an automated solver out of curiosity, I won’t say I wouldn’t be interested to see what the machine compilers could do, but I certainly wouldn’t like to see them overthrow human setters.

    Thanks to the human setter and Mr K.

    1. I would be interested to hear more about your automated solver at some point. Solving cryptics by computer looks like a very hard problem (thankfully).

      1. Still in fairly early stages: classification and simpler solutions. Certainly no trivial task though, that’s for sure. With luck I may just manage to have something reasonable in time to go toe-to-toe with the machine setters!

        1. Sounds good. Have you seen this? It looks like one of the more sophisticated efforts to date. Unfortunately the link to their system given in the article no longer works.

          There is also Crossword Maestro. I tried its trial version on some clues from today’s puzzle. Of the first six across clues it got one (11d) correct and five wrong. But it was able to get the long anagrams and the double definitions, and left to its own devices it filled in 14 answers before it got stuck (because two of them were wrong). Quite impressive.

          1. I’ve also tried training a machine learning algorithm on roughly 1000 old puzzles where the setter was known to see if it could identify the setter of a new puzzle. It was a complete failure.

          2. Fascinating. I haven’t seen that particular article before. Seems somewhere along the lines of what I’m hoping to accomplish in terms of neural nets. Their system seems to focus around dictionary lookup (very sophisticated lookup at that), I’d be interested to see how far that can be extended beyond the standard crossword into the realm of the cryptic.

            Those Crossword Maestro results look very promising indeed. In research I had anticipated that the anagrams and double definitions were likely to be the easiest to solve, glad to see that’s the case here. I love the ‘plain English’ explanations given too, though not sure it quite beats this blog! ;) I’ll have to try and play around and dig deeper into Crossword Maestro if I can. Great find!

            Hmm, that sounds like a fun idea, was there any discernible correlation found at all? With the right features and a bit of luck, I reckon clue classification should be more achievable. I’d be intrigued to see if setter identification is possible. Do we have enough data for that?

            Thanks for the great article, I’ll see if I can hunt down their system anywhere. I think I have a good few hours of reading ahead of me!

            1. There are many puzzles where the setter is known – all of the Toughies, Mon-Wed-Fri-Sun back-pagers, some Thursdays. That’s thousands of crosswords. I had hoped that the algorithm would, for example, be able to identify a RayT by his signatures (featuring the Queen in a clue, all clues eight words or fewer, etc.), but there appeared to be no correlation. I’m still very much a beginner with machine learning and the performance was so bad that I’m starting to suspect I set something up incorrectly. I will revisit it when I get a chance.

              1. I’m not quite so caught up on the intricacies of our different setters, certainly seems like there could be a degree of separability there. I’d love to hear how you get on if you pick it back up.

  12. Agree with Mr. K that that was more difficult than it looks in retrospect. I could not tune into the clues at all – especially the NW corner. Thanks to setter and Mr. K

    With regard to the computer generated clues, computers can understand the nuance of language and answer complex questions requiring data from multiple sources (e.g Watson winning Jeopardy in 2012 – its on YouTube) and thus could combine historic clues to develop new crosswords. However, i am not sure their ability to be creative is sufficiently developed to provide new insights into the language and, in any case, I agree with Mr. K it is good to pits one’s wits against our fellow humans!

  13. On computers and crosswords: aside from the human element (where I’m with the rest of you) there is the question of wit and humour. When computers have mastered comedy, that’s when we fleshlings should worry (and welcome our new robot overlords).

  14. I completely agree with Mr K’s remarks on the puzzle.
    Whether or not a person can enjoy a puzzle set by a computer is another matter. After all the computer was programmed by a person.
    Thanks to all concerned.

  15. Good puzzle but what a strange choice in 15a! I didn’t know the actual pooch but am familiar with his big brother so it was only the first five letters that needed to be put into the correct order.
    Several old friends here in the likes of 13,23&22a plus 17d – none the worse for that.

    1a probably gets the vote clue-wise but 18a will always be tops in this household – my favourite meal.

    Thanks to today’s setter and to Mr K for another excellent blog – I was duly 21’d by the cartoon illustration! Have to say that I preferred the ‘link’ version of 3d.

    Just a thought – the article about computers producing cryptics stated that solvers wouldn’t notice the difference – perhaps it’s already being trialled? After all, we don’t know who set today’s offering!

  16. Very pleasant stuff. Perhaps a tad trickier than recent Tuesdays but that’s just me being a bit slow at anagrams and there are a lot here. Fortunately I’d heard of the dog and spotted the “pinscher” bit rather quickly for me but that was just because of the order that pommette wrote out the fodder.

    Fav has to be the brilliant 9a but I also liked 7d despite all the comment above – it works for me along the lines Kitty has said in her reply at #2. Also on the podium is 19d because it amused pommette – she said it was a description of me :whistle:

    I’ll go for **/***.

    Thanks to Messrs Ron and K.

    P.S. On the subject of computers setting crosswords, if I want something set by a computer I’ll do a sudoku. Crosswords are for real people, preferably ones with a slightly smutty sense of humour, and Mr K is right in that there’s more enjoyment to be if you know who the setter is and little bit about him.

  17. I certainly would not like computer generated crosswords, where would the doh moments be, and the wee smiles of satisfaction. Enjoyed today’s puzzle and learnt the name of a dog, now I have to remember it! Thank you to the setter and Mr K.

    1. I believe the Telegraph once tried it by recycling clues from its massive database, but it was very unpopular. Since the advent of solving blogs like this one, it would be a lot harder to get away with implementing, although some might say it is little different than Rufus recycling clues from his card index.

  18. Strangely my paper gives 18A clue as ‘Suspicious, a butcher and I about a steak’. This is different to the clue you show. Any explanation?

    1. I wonder if the new Crossword Editor could explain – always wondered why there are different clues.

    2. Welcome from me too, John.

      I generate my hints from the version of the puzzle found on the Telegraph Puzzles site. As BD says, it is not unknown for that site and the printed newspaper to display different versions of a clue. Friday setter Giovanni explained here how and why that can occur.

      I’ll add the newspaper clue to the hints.

  19. All quadrants went in quite easily except the NW, like some others of you. Had to put the paper down for an hour. Then the penny dropped for 1a once I thought stolen and given up on snaps. After that – no problem Nice challenge today. I had never heard of that mutt, but I was able to work it out. 2.5*/****. I guess 1a will have to be my pick of the day.

  20. It took me some time to get started on is one, some clues really quite hard to unravel. Maybe its my advanced age, but perseverence won out in tge end.
    Thanks to Mr K and setter.

  21. I read 27a as piper and thought of the pied piper, so got a bit stuck on it until I realised it was piper’s son that I needed. I didn’t have a particular favourite clue today. Thank you setter and Mr Kitty. Oh, I forgot, had to do a googlething to check the dog in the 15a anagram, which I only managed to get by putting it into an anagram solver.

  22. Late on parade today. 1a,1,2,3 & 4 d took longer than rest of the puzzle. Looking back at them can’t really see why!
    29a my favourite
    Thanks to Mr K and the living breathing setter!

  23. We either have new setters that I cannot seem to tune into or the puzzles are getting harder.
    No idea about the German dog of the Italian restaurant. Had to consult the internet for those.
    SE corner was beyond me but no excuses apart from a small brain.
    Thanks Mr K and Mr Ron.

  24. For some reason I had Peter Piper in my head for 27a..believe me there are not many words with Peter in them! Tom was much easier and I thought it was a great clue.

  25. Thanks for the comments so far on computer-generated crosswords. We appear to be in unanimous agreement that we like to feel a connection to a human compiler. Which I suppose is why on days such as today one can feel frustrated that the setter is anonymous.

  26. Took a while to do the NW (and I am afraid I needed Mr K’s blog to remind me once more that “even” = “tied” – thanks).
    Many thanks to the setter too, as always.

  27. A good challenge and a very enjoyable puzzle. Some tricky clues but all solved with a bit of head scratching. 25d last in and a bung that was confirmed with Mr K’s hints. Plenty of anagrams gave me a foothold to get going so no complaints there. Got on the right wavelength more than yesterday.

    Clues of the day: Liked 27a / 16d

    Rating *** / ****

    Thanks to Mr K and the setter

    1. Think it’s all been said re the computer generated puzzle and I am with the majority. What an awful thought to do away with the human element surely that’s what our crossword is all about.

  28. I found this quite a slow solve, possibly it was a wavelength issue I’m not sure, but I enjoyed the challenge. Like Angelov, I thought eight anagrams were a couple too many, although two of them made my podium today, 9a and 15a, along with 7d, which I was surprised to see RD query.

    I was less enthused by seeing the same containment verb used on three separate occasions, twice in the present tense and once in the past.

    I thought Kitty’s comment on computer-generated crosswords was superb, and pretty much echoes my own view. Well said!

    Many thanks to our Tuesday setter and to Mr K.

  29. 19a made me laugh. My butcher had some on promotion the other day and he managed to write Chateau Brilliant on his listing.
    Took a while to sort out the anagram in 15a.
    Ancestry seems to be the theme of the day as forebears appear in both the toughie and the back page.
    I always wondered if I had some Anglo Saxon roots as I have always been so attracted by everything from the other side of the channel but my whole family is French since at least 1640.
    Thanks to the setter and to Mr K for the review.

  30. ***/***. Got through all the clues apart from 14d. I start the crossword by separating the multi word answers with a hyphen or a line. Unfortunately I wrote the letter “i” in 15 across with the lower part too boldly so assumed the answer to 14d was 2,6. What a nightmare trying to fit all sorts of answers in. Thanks to the setter and Mr K for the hints.

  31. I was totally off wavelength today and, like others, the NW corner put up the hardest fight. I needed the hints for about five clues there. The rest behaved itself and I was able to solve them, as well as understand them.
    I needed electronic help for the anagram at 15a, even though I know of that breed, even met one, it’s certainly not a breed that springs to mind.
    My fave was 27a with 25d close behind.
    Thanks to setter and to Mr. K for his review. No thanks, no computer crosswords for me, though I’m not likely to live that long. I like the different flavour each day with the human compilers.

      1. Yup, my first year at big school. taken 72 years ago. I’m fifth to the left of the shield. Dormitories upstairs and classrooms downstairs. Assembly Hall to the left, chapel to the right.

        As a bit of interest, Joyce Nation, Malcolm Gladwell’s mother, was our headgirl. The tallest girl at the rear, at the tip of the pyramid so to speak, Joyce is on her left. She had a twin sister Faith. He gives a little potted history of his mother’s life at the end of the Outliers.

  32. The dog in 15a was also new to us but, like others, we recognised the last part of the name as a possibility and so just had to sort out and check the first five letters. A little trickier for us than many Tuesday’s often are and good fun.
    On the subject of robot setters, there seems to be general agreement that solvers (and that certainly includes us) prefer working with puzzles where they know who the setter is. Perhaps this is a direction we could urge Chris to take with these back-page puzzles.

  33. For the second time this week I found the puzzle a little tricky 😬 ***/***, some nice clues, I was quite proud to get 15a it didn’t make a monkey out of me 🐵! Favourites 5a & 6d thanks to Mr K and to the compiler 😜

  34. Well – here I go! Lots to say but too late to bang on at length now.
    I thought this was terrific – less than 3* difficulty, probably because of the number of anagrams, and more than 3* for enjoyment.
    I found the style unfamiliar.
    Never in my life have I heard of the 15a dog so I confess to trawling a list of dogs until something looked hopeful.
    Given where I’ve spent today, i.e. in Clapham with my younger Lamb, I was dim with 6d – who cares, I’ve had a lovely day with her.
    Notable clues include 1 and 27a and 21d.
    Thanks very much to the setter for such a fine crossword and to Mr K for the review.

  35. Thanks for a very pleasant after tea puzzle, nothing too tricky but not sure if 7d is a cryptic or not – could someone please help.
    This thread has been deleted as “Tina T” is a troll who has tried to access this site using a variety of different ids. BD

  36. Had fun trying to shoehorn draw+r into 2d which also messed up 1a

    27a was my favourite.
    One of those er…um…EE..are
    Sort of thing, then Oh I’ve got it!
    Thanks to both

  37. I surprised myself by quite liking this, although it did put up quite a fight, and some clues gave me a real headache (Mr BL has made me an extra strong iced latte to cure it). When I read Mr K’s hints I couldn’t really see why I didn’t get the answers, well except for the German dog. I failed to see that it was an anagram, and tried to work with munsterlander, another 13 letter one of theirs… not a fan of 7d either, the answer seemed too easy and I also tried to make an anagram of some sort of pasta dish. Everyday I seem to learn a new word which can’t be bad.

  38. 1*/3*, and favourite clue 3d. Thanks to this particular Mysteron, and to Mr K for the review.

  39. A *** for difficulty here with the longer, unfamiliar anagrams causing the most problems. Robot compilers? Didn’t the Telegraph consider that a couple of years ago only for it to be roundly rejected?

    1. Yes, the Telegraph did once try something along those lines. I’ll have more to say about it next Tuesday.

  40. Thanks to the setter and to Mr Kitty for the review and hints. I enjoyed this one, but found it very tricky. Needed the hints for 4&14d, just had no idea on both. Got 10d, but didn’t realise it was an anagram. Had never heard of 15a,but had the anagram fodder. Also had never heard of 18a,but it somehow came into my head, must have heard it on TV perhaps? Favourite was 21d. Was 4*/3* for me. I personally wouldn’t like computer generated puzzles. So much better to have the human connection.

  41. Even two whole days later this was a nice crossword! 1a out of several candidates was my favourite.
    2.5/4* overall.
    Thanks to the setter, and to Mr K for the review and discussions. Fascinating.

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