Rookie Corner – 269 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner – 269

A Puzzle by Porcia

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The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

This week Porcia makes his debut. 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.

Welcome to Porica with a complex (too complex?) crossword.  Whilst the majority of the wordplay was accurate and there was a lot of promise in the construction of the clues, I think that a lot of the difficulty came from the use of Americanisms and American spellings, a lot of Yoda like cluing, for example using AB in to indicate putting B inside A and a number of clues where you need a two step process – for example seasonal (which means periodic or recurring as an adjective) meaning temporary and then using temporary as a temporary or seasonal worker and abbreviating to temp.

The commentometer reads at 6 / 28 or 21.4%


5 Having ejaculated, drooping, love champion returned home for games (7)
OLYMPIA – A homophone (ejaculated – as an exclamatory remark) of LIMP (drooping) inside (having – as in what are you having / eating for dinner) the letter representing love and a reversal (returned) of A1 (champion).  Please refer to the comments on the crossword about the use of smutty clues.

7 Superior‘s promoting a scrubber (5)
ALOOF – A word for a sponge used as a scrubber in the bath with the A moved to the left.  Care needs to be taken with clues where the wordplay could work either way.  With this clue, another reading would be to take a word for superior and move the A to give the scrubber.

9 Art going to use inspirational Bookends and Bridge over Troubled Water reprise initially (4)
WILT – Reverse (reprise) the initial letters of troubled and water and put them around (bridge over) the first and last letters (bookends) of inspirational.  I am not sure that reprise (which means to repeat, reissue or resume) is a good reversal indicator).  Whilst repeat might, in a performance, indicate come back with, you have a two step process, reprise = repeat = come back with.

10 French, and scantily dressed in style (5)
ECLAT – The French word for and includes (in) a four letter word meaning dressed with the final letter removed (scantily).  Try to avoid using the Yoda like A B in structure to indicate putting B in A.  It produces rather stilted clues when you look at the cryptic reading.

11 Refuse nude nymphs clothing (4)
DENY – The answer is hidden (clothing) in RUDE NYMPS.

12 Innocent woman’s covering for stiff back is essential (8)
INHERENT – A three letter word meaning woman’s replaces (covering for) the three letter word meaning to stiff or dupe that is reversed (back) in the INNOCENT from the clue.

14 March in March and the middle of Sept, on foot (6)
INSTEP – How you might refer to the current month (for example March in March) followed by the middle letters of Sept.  

16 Say ‘conjoined’, in short, replacing former description (4)
THAI – A homophone (say) of TIED (conjoined) with the final letter removed (in short).  The definition here does not pass muster.  The solution is an adjective but the definition is both imprecise and suggests an answer that is a verb.

18 Charts alt-left since kidnapping (5)
ATLAS – A two letter word meaning since includes (kidnapping) a reversal (left) of the ALT from the clue.  Whilst back can be used as a verb to indicate a reversal, I don’t think that the same can be said of left.  It would need to be “to the left” as you cannot “left something”.

19 A name I call myself from the start of school to the end of class (4)
MISS – The musical note from the song Do-Re-Mi followed by the first letter (start) of school and the last letter (end) of class.

20 Reputable New York brothel? (6)
HONEST – Split 2,4, this could describe a place where American prostitutes may be found.  Perhaps an exclamation mark here would be appropriate to indicate that there is a liberty with the wordplay.

21 Something that is concerning in universe (8)
ENTIRETY – A six letter word meaning something that is or exists includes (in) a two letter word meaning concerning or about.  Another AB in structure.  Try to avoid repeating wordplay indicators, here using the in as a containment indicator.

24 PA with next to no pants (4)
AIDE – A nine letter word meaning next to has a five letter word for trousers (pants) removed.  I think that there is an Americanism here as the word “longs” is used in Britain to indicate long trousers not pants.

26 Queen’s call? “West End essentially foul!” (5)
MIAOU – Reverse (West) a three letter word meaning end or objective and follow with the inner letters (essentially) of foul.  Another reversal indicator that would need to be “to the West” as you cannot “west something”

28 Rookie mistake – try over (4)
TYRO – An anagram (mistake) of TRYO (O being the abbreviation for over).  Whilst mistake something, I don’t think it works as an imperative verb to mean reorganise something.  The anagram is not a complex one.

29 The latest information has been received disclosing secret location (1-4)
G-SPOT – The abbreviation for starting price (the latest information) inside (received) a three letter word meaning has been.  Another Yoda like structure A B received to indicate B inside A.

30 Drives a coach and horses through cut flower beds (7)
DEBUNKS – A three letter river (flower) with the final letter removed (cut) followed by another word for beds.


1 Wrong sounding conjecture needs sulfur for gold to achieve alchemy (10)
SYNTHESIZE – A homophone (sounding) of SIN (wrong) followed by a word for conjecture with the OR (gold) replaced by an S (sulfur).  Where producing a crossword for a UK site or paper, you should stick to British not American spellings both in the wordplay and in the solution.

2 Globe revealed as Columbus’ last ship finally arrived (6)
SPHERE – The final letters (last and finally) of Columbus and Ship followed by a four letter word meaning arrived.

3 Masters Pinta in a storm, having been tossed about briefly (8)
CAPTAINS – A word meaning tossed has the final letter removed (briefly) and goes around (about) an anagram (in a storm) of PINTA.

4/15 They stop to help complete Santa Maria’s refit after leaving American coast (4,10)
GOOD SAMARITANS – A four letter word meaning complete followed by an anagram (refit) of SANTA MARIAS after removing the first letter (coast) of American.  You could have had “leaving America” rather than American coast.  Coast does not tell you which coast or side.

5 Digit getting trapped in workings by rings? (5)
ONION – The letter representing one (digit) inside two instances of a two letter word meaning working.

6/8/27/22 Awkward, as Nina going down (3,7,3,6)
ALL FINGERS AND THUMBS – Look at the first and third columns of the crossword and come up with a synonym meaning with all hands.

13 Missed the boat at 6 (5)
TILDE – You have to know the names of your ships.  Christophe Columbus had three ships, Pinta, Santa Maria and Nina.  The spelling of Nina has a punctuation mark that is the solution to this clue that is missing in the word Nina in the clue to 6d.  I think that this is too obtuse and unfair on the solver.

15 See 4

17 Avant-garde Goon hit producing guffaws (7)
HOOTING – An anagram (avant-garde) of GOON HIT.

18 Goes towards seasonal temperatures (8)
ATTEMPTS – A two letter word meaning towards followed by a four letter word meaning seasonal and the abbreviation for temperature with an s (as temperatures is in the plural).

22 See 6

23 Spells master’s spelling savagely without using A’s (5)
TERMS – An anagram (spelling savagely) of MASTERS after removing the A and S

25 Glimpse another way of seeing something unknown (4)
ESPY – The abbreviation for extra sensory perception followed by a letter representing an unknown quantity.

27 See 6

41 comments on “Rookie Corner – 269
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  1. I knew when there weren’t any comments from our foreign correspondents that there was going to be ‘something’ about this crossword and I wasn’t wrong

    I tend to avoid crosswords with sex, drugs and … in the clues and was so nearly tempted to recycle the piece of paper after I’d looked at 5a. Although I will say that, when I eventually solved 20a, that I did smile, so I’m not entirely practising what I preach.

    The RH side of the crossword was filled reasonably quickly, although with question marks by a considerable number of the clues. I think there’s quite a bit of ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’ going on I ended up having to reveal a few letters on the LH side to enable me to finish solving before I have to start the day job.

    Sorry Porcia – not my favourite Rookie crossword- although there are some good clues hiding in there, it was more hard work than fun

    • Thanks crypticsue. And sorry about the filth. I kept changing 5a to something bland about a politician, but I couldn’t in the end resist the (un?)happy confluence of homophone and indicator. I would have been happier if the clue had been buried further down the grid.
      I’d be interested to know how I seem to be trying too hard to be cryptic: from this end it feels like the idea compelling an approach, and then tidying up to make sure everything is covered. It may be that working like that is inherently flawed…

  2. Hi Porcia
    Thanks for the puzzle, all finished but also with quite a bit of revealing to keep me going.
    A lot of it is still baffling me. Some clues, like 5a & 12a I can see the definition but not the wordplay. In 9 & 13 I can see nothing that I can connect with the solution.
    14 & 19 are quite clever, as are the layers of meaning in ‘Nina going down’. I enjoyed learning about the ships afterwards.
    You obviously invest a lot of thought in your clues. It may be sad for setters, but solvers do not want to make the same investment – they want to get it and move on.

    • Hi mucky. Thanks for your thoughts. For some reason I’m unable to load the puzzle on my phone (away from desk all day), and I can’t remember which clue is which.
      It appears I need to work on baffling less (in the wrong way), while continuing to baffle the right way. I’ll give this some thought!

  3. Welcome to Rookie Corner, Porcia. You’ve obviously put a great deal of effort into this puzzle and there’s some very clever stuff here but I made heavy weather of it and ended up revealing two letters to get it finished. There are still a number of clues that I can’t understand.
    I enjoyed 20a, 29a and 30a best.
    Please do come back with more puzzles but try and make them a bit more user-friendly next time.

    • Thanks Gazza. Lack of user-friendliness or similar seems to be a universal sentiment, based on small sample size. I’ll think about this.

  4. Welcome Porcia (or is it Porcea? That is the name appearing on my printed PDF copy).

    Like CS, Mucky and Gazza, I have plenty of question marks against clue constructions I don’t understand, even after a liberal use of the “Reveal” button.

    As with many Rookie setters, I think you’ve possibly made the mistake of trying to make your clues too cryptic, regardless of whether the wordplay is fair to the solver. That said, I think quite a bit of potential is in evidence, and I would be keen to tackle a second, more solver-friendly puzzle.

    I ticked 3d and 25d, but I shall await Prolixic’s review with great interest in order to understand the ones that are currently defying my parsing attempts.

    Thank you, Porcia.

    • Thanks silvanus. A coherent picture is emerging..
      Far from ‘trying too hard to be cryptic’, in setting I’m trying to be as clear and precise as possible within my understanding of the ‘rules’ and the context of each idea. It’s both interesting and alarming that a different effect is produced. I’m reflecting on this.

  5. Hello Porcia. As one of the ‘foreign correspondents,’ I start on ‘Monday puzzles’ at 6:00pm on my Sunday evening. The Rookie is part of a trio which includes the Monday back pager and the DT on-line weekly prize puzzle.

    Having solved the latter two in typical times, I started looking at your puzzle and I have to agree with CS about puzzles with sex and drugs. So, after finding only the 11a lurker in my typical solving time, I did recycle the piece of paper which is why CS did not see any comments from me when she looked at the blog this morning.

    As a ‘one puzzle Rookie’ myself (my second has been in ‘draft’ for a while!), I have to ask if you had a ‘test solver’/editor? I did. As a setter, I found that I could not see the wood for the trees and the advice and suggestions I received were invaluable.

    I am also sure that you find Prolixic’s review very helpful.

    • Thanks Senf. In many ways your comments have been the most useful so far: they’ve led me to consider why it is that I give up on a puzzle when solving. Usually when the difficulty of finding a way in combines with some other reason for finding it unlikeable. I’m unlikely to start another puzzle with such a gross first clue…

  6. I’m another who almost reached for the recycling bin after scanning the first few clues but I gave Porcia the benefit of the doubt and soldiered on. In all fairness, I had to reveal quite a few letters to achieve a completed grid and my page is liberally strewn with ‘umms’ and question marks.

    25d was a little golden nugget in what, for me, was otherwise quite an unrewarding battle.
    I would echo Senf’s remarks about the importance of having test solvers on board. To (almost) quote a well known saying – oh, to see our puzzles as other people see them!

    I look forward to reading the review from Prolixic and hope that you will take his comments on board.
    Thank you for braving the den, Porcia.

  7. Well done Porcia

    I started this by confidently filling in PAINTERS for 3d and thinking this Rookie doesn’t clue very well at all. A long time and many reveals later, I realise most clues have been clued with Anax-style precision, although there are a few bits I don’t think work well – alt-left and east end, the FROM and TO in 19a. There are many things I don’t understand, but I imagine from the other clues that there is a reason that i have not seen. I look forward to Prolixic’s review!

    A tough puzzle.

    I’m trying to work what i think is a nina into 6/8/27/22 but haven’t managed.

    An incredible effort, though pretty high on the difficulty scale – a Friday toughie ++

    • Thanks dutch. At last a comment from someone who doesn’t think I should be on some sort of register! Or at least doesn’t reveal that they do.
      The misgivings you mention are probably justified, although I came up with post hoc justifications for some of them in my notes for Prolixic. I’m sure he’ll make short work of dismantling my defence though.

  8. Hello Porcia and welcome to Rookie Corner.

    I’m no prude and I certainly haven’t led a sheltered life by any stretch of the imagination, but I am another who doesn’t want to see these kind of references in a cryptic puzzle. I guess you’ve got that point by now.

    There are some really good ideas here, unfortunately (but not surprisingly for a Rookie), there is much room for improvement in the wording. You need to be quite fastidious in that the clue contains coherent instructions, offers some misdirection and makes sense – even if it means the clue looks relatively simple to you. Solvers need to be misled until they twig, ideally with a smile or a D’oh! Sometimes the best place to hide something is in plain view.

    A test solver can help, but after a while and with Prolixic’s gold dust reviews you should begin to recognise the difference between a good clue and one that’s not great and needs a rethink. My advice would be to pay very close attention to every word Prolixic has to say and make sure you fully understand precisely what he is telling you tomorrow, and I have a feeling you will advance rapidly. Going through previous Rookie reviews is also enormously beneficial to spot common mistakes/finer points.

    Well done for both putting the puzzle together at all and for sticking your neck out here.

    Thank you Porcia, look forward to your next.

    • Thanks LetterboxRoy. I’ve learnt a lot from this experience. I’ll bear it all in mind when setting my next.

  9. Here is the other team of ‘foreign correspondents’.
    We did spend a lot of time on this puzzle and ended up with a filled (although not fully parsed) grid with only a few squares, mainly in the NW, where we revealed letters. As we don’t like to leave a first comment that is not a positive one, we chose to delay commenting until our next morning.
    We did find the Nina in columns 1 and 3 which helped us make sense of the combination answer that starts with 6d. There are obviously lots of other very clever subtleties involved here too and it is such a pity that they were not just a bit more accessible to solvers.
    Thanks Porcia.

    • Thanks 2Kiwis. Just catching up after a long night on the road. I’m grateful that you gave this puzzle a lot of time. And thanks for pointing people in the right direction with the Nina. I thought I’d laid it on pretty thick with the build up, but I’m beginning to see that I’m often not as clear as I need to be, whether through sloppiness or murky execution.

  10. I think I agree with other commenters that some of these clues were a bit too convoluted, but there was some very inventive cluing going on too. I liked the nina and thought 5 down was a very elegantly constructed clue, perhaps let down a bit by the slightly vague description. As for 5 across… I admire the audaciousness of kicking off a crossword as you did, though I think I may be alone in that! That said, I’m not sure I’ve quite parsed that clue correctly, as with a few others. I hope you’ll have another go at the “corner”, because there’s lots to work from here. Thanks for the puzzle, Porcia.

    • Thanks Chameleon. I very much enjoyed your puzzle recently (especially the visual joke). It’s great that an accomplished fellow rookie managed to find some bits to like in my attempt.

      • I’m glad you enjoyed my recent puzzle but if you think I’m an accomplished rookie you must not have been around for my first one, which didn’t go down too well at all! It was a valuable experience, though, as this will hopefully have been for you. I’ll look forward to the next Porcia puzzle.

  11. Thanks Porcia for the brain-stretching experience. Certainly a libertarian crossword with some of your wordplay indicators stretched or abbreviated to the limit, and some very clever ideas. Congrats on the Nina (thanks 2Kiwis).
    The majority of these I had to parse after putting in the solution from crossers and presumed definitions, few could I solve ‘forwards’. A matter of setter and solver getting on the same wavelength really, which you may want to work towards, or you may want to stick to your style and be a tough solve :)

    • Thanks Gonzo. I don’t regard myself as a libertarian, but I can see how I might look like one, having read the comments here. I do like hard crosswords, but it rather seems that I need to work on ironing out sloppiness and some probably false assumptions rather more urgently.

  12. I’m another foreign correspondent, although a less reliable one than some! I found this pretty hard but extremely clever in places (e.g., 9a), and needed quite a few checks. I would be very upset if this became the usual standard of difficulty of the cryptic crossword! We don’t need to take a Tripos exam every day.

    • Thanks Atrica. I came across the ‘art going to’ definition in the wild somewhere, and thought it would be interesting to find a way of using it with more disguise than the clue I saw. I’m irritated that I didn’t quite nail the Garfunkel idea. Thanks for the sentiments on accessibilty. I think I’ll shelve my ‘constrained solver’ project for now.

  13. I gave up on this puzzle quite early. As usual I have returned to look at Prolixic’s comments. And I think about boiling and picking crabs which is something I rarely do. When picking a crab I end up with two piles of stuff from inside the crab shell. The sort that looks like what I get in a crab sandwich or on a crab salad and the sort that looks like nothing I have ever seen on a plate before. I keep one pile and bin the rest. These clues can be sorted in the same way. Some look like clues seen in regular cryptic puzzles but some look nothing like any sort of clue I have ever seen before. To have set a puzzle must mean that you have a lot of solving experience. I admire anybody that attempts even to fill a grid with letters let alone devise cryptic clues. So thanks for your efforts. Read Prolixic’s review and dissect it with a fine tooth comb. Come back soon with a new puzzle and remember the crab meat. Thanks for contributing.

  14. Many thanks for the review, Prolixic, which I certainly needed to make sense of this one. I now have much more appreciation for the ability of this setter but still feel that he was often guilty of being ‘too clever by half’.

    I do hope that Porcia will bring us more puzzles but trust that he will give us solvers more of a fighting chance!

    • Thanks again Jane. I occasionally get a grudging ‘tough but fair’ from someone who sees some of my clues. I’ll work harder on eliminating unfairness.

  15. Finally back at my desk, and so able to look at the grid to see which clue number is which, rather than trying to guess based on failing memory.
    Firstly, thank you very much to all who tried the puzzle: your comments have all been extremely constructive, which is admirable given that most of you were also clearly irritated by the content or style, or both. That so many of you found time to engage with what became a chore is wondrous.
    Secondly, special thanks are due to Prolixic for his review. I’ve been reading his Rookie reviews, and indeed his structured notes on how to go about setting, for some time (I note that my diligence in this regard is by no means obvious, LetterboxRay!), and I’ve always learned a lot from them. How much more I have learned with the forensic eye trained on my own efforts!
    But… I’m the annoying child at school who queries her marks. There’s value for me in doing so, even if the teacher delivers a withering put down while the rest of the class roll their eyes looking on.

    7a: I’ve never really accepted that clues should appear to operate only one way, especially with very simple constructions: it’s part of my job as a solver to work out which way round the clue works. Assuming of course that the setter has taken the time to ensure that only one viable solution exists.
    9a: Irritated that I didn’t check that the etymological reading of ‘reprise’ survived in current use. Fair cop. Should have stuck with the more laboured ‘coming back’.
    10a: First of several Yoda complaints. I’ve always understood that forced construction should be avoided in the surface, but rather welcomed the fact that its use in the wordplay allows for greater dynamism in the conflict of meaning between the two. I may have to rethink this assumption.
    18a: Left is an adverb in the wordplay. I’m by no means convinced that either solvers or natural language assume that ‘back’ is a verb when it’s a reversal indicator: surely it’s adverbial, much like [going] about. We accept adverbs as instructions elsewhere (letter-picking for instance).
    20a: I prefer the ‘is this fair?’ question mark to the ‘check this out!’ exclamation mark. (!)
    24a: It’s fascinating that two wordplay readings work, and a shame that the one Prolixic saw is flawed. I intended ‘pants for’ ~ ‘yearns for’.
    26a: Compass points are adverbs too.
    28a: ‘Mistake’: the current primary usage is figurative, but the literal/etymological sense still exists.
    29a: No Yoda present here. The neatness, such as it is, of this clue is that the part of the verb that determines its voice in the surface becomes the subject of a verb that changes its voice in the wordplay. Word order is natural in both.
    1d: ‘-ise’ or ‘-ize’. My understanding of the rules here is that while ‘-ise’ is wrong in American English, either is correct in native English. Chambers and Oxford list ‘-ize’ first. As a classicist, I’m reluctant to lose the latent zeta in verbifications of nouns ending ‘-is’.
    13d: I agree tilde is obtuse, but a fair amount of groundwork has gone into setting the solver up for it.
    17d: Definition is ‘producing guffaws’

    I’ve very much enjoyed this setting and criticism adventure. I hope I haven’t overstepped the mark in setting out the case for the defence in some areas. I’d of course welcome anyone explaining where I’m at fault…

    • Hi again,
      Specifically, an adverb needs a verb. You have applied ‘west’ for example to the word ‘aim’ as a set of letters, which is a noun. So either west is a verb (‘to west’ archaic) or it is an adjective (‘of the west, blowing from the west, forming the west part’). Whereas ‘back’ has an adjectival sense of ‘reversed,rearward’ e.g. backflip.
      7a More than one viable solution exists. This is a bad habit to get into imo – what if it were an alphabetical jigsaw?
      1d the s/z is unchecked in the grid and the wordplay allows of both.

      Good for you standing up for yourself

      • Hi.
        Sure, adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, but never nouns. But my point (badly expressed) was that we use adverbs, modifying an understood verb/adverb/adjective, in all sorts of other ways in crosswords, often with nouns as the element ultimately being operated on (crazily [arranged], initially [represented], essentially [only][required]). Why not [reading] left?
        7a: Doh. I spent ages looking for something that worked the wrong way. What have I missed (can’t face looking again)?
        1d: Indeed, that is a problem.

    • You make some good points.
      7a I agree about clues going two ways if the crossing letters resolve it. I don’t think yours does go both ways, though, since the A has to be promoted. On the other hand it’s quite awkward trying to read the ‘promoting a’ as referring to scrubber.
      10a You’ve only been advised against such a construction because it’s stilted. It’s up to you what sort of clues you want to write. I’ve seen ‘A B in’ for ‘B in A’ in the Guardian, but only once that I remember and by a setter who regularly mangles cryptic grammar in horrible ways. I think it’s particularly clunky. ‘A B inside’ seems more natural for some reason. ‘A B verb’, as you have at 29a, is common. Paul uses it loads, but it’s conventional to use the present tense. Eg. ‘Quiet boy eats tinned food’ for SPAM, rather than quiet boy ate …
      18a I agree. Adverbs are commonly used as instructions, and require the solver to provide the verb. West and left can be adverbs, as you say, but by themselves don’t tend to be used as reversal indicators. With West End you need the solver to provide not only the verb, but also ‘towards the’, and a colon so that the West applies to the End. ‘[Going][towards the] West: End’. That’s not particularly enjoyable for a solver. It just looks like you’ve taken a lazy shortcut.
      20a, 24a 28a, 1d all fair points, IMO.
      13d Don’t kid yourself you’ve done enough here. 1) The boat is obscure. 2) The omission is obscure 3) The clue does not tell us what sort of thing we’re looking for 4) Your wording is utterly unhelpful. You wrote ‘missed the boat’ because miss the boat is idiomatic. What you mean, but haven’t said unless it’s by some other linguistic contortion, is ‘something missing from the boat’

      But all this is somewhat beside the point. As a test of a clue ‘Will I have to justify this?’ is much better than ‘Can I justify this?’ Of course you need to able to answer yes to the second question, but it’s better to be able to answer no to the first.

      • Excellent reply. Thanks. I’m still not entirely convinced on adverbs, but I suspect the jury may be. And as your last point makes clear, I shouldn’t have allowed it to come to court. Your other points are all good ones.

  16. I thought the def in 16 was rather neat, though perhaps unorthodox. If conjoined is Siamese, a later description would be Thai. Ok, maybe a stretch. Nonetheless one of the most interesting clues for THAI I have ever seen

  17. Many thanks for the review Prolixic, crystal clear as always.

    Fair play to Porcia too for explaining what was in mind, thanks again.

  18. Dear Porcia

    As a recent rookie, and not much advanced from there, my advice would be to not be the irritating kid in class but to listen to the advice from the grown-ups without quibbling.

    Well done on your first outing and looking forward to more from you

    Regards Dill

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