Times 28557 – no cheap holidays here.

A medium level puzzle which uses a couple of unusual meanings of words, but nothing that can’t be deduced or guessed. No less than three acceptable homophone clues and only one anagram, which itself is unusual. 21 minutes, with the front of ****FINCH coming in last. I’m lukewarm about 3d, unless I’m missing something.

Definitions underlined in bold, (ABC)* indicating anagram of ABC, anagrinds in italics

1 Sounds dejected, hearing of greatness (5)
SIGHS – sounds like SIZE = greatness.
4 Flop on holiday beach was very pricy (4,1,4)
COST A BOMB – COSTA (holiday beach region in Spain) BOMB (flop). Maybe the French Riviera should be so called.
9 The more prevalent blood group these days (6,3)
COMMON ERA – COMMONER (more prevalent) A (blood group).
10 Pierce small fruit (5)
SPEAR – S(mall) PEAR = fruit.
11 Lower of two numbers (6)
NETHER –  N being one number, ETHER being another (anaesthetic).
12 Behind the storehouse, down with this chap! (8)
BARNABAS – BARN = storehouse, A BAS ! meaning “down with !”, borrowed French apparently allowed in English.
14 Make accurate plan of PM’s place (9)
CHARTWELL – Churchill’s country house, you’d CHART WELL if you made an accurate plan.
16 Make a meal of mockery (5)
SCOFF – double definition.
17 Small bone needed for pincushion (5)
INCUS – bone in ear, hidden as above.
19 Oblige one Italian to interrupt very loud tease (4,3,2)
MAKE FUN OF – MAKE (oblige) F F very loud, insert UNO Italian for one.
21 To cancel Mass, say, at end of day is a bit of a nerve (8)
DENDRITE – D(ay) END RITE = cancel Mass.
22 Non-democrat lacking way to join a panel (6)
FASCIA – FASCIST loses ST and gains A.
25 Please contribute for arch (5)
OGIVE – O! GIVE! = please contribute.
26 Window in church shows singer of colour (9)
CHAFFINCH – CHAFF, IN CH. Apparently chaff as in the anti-missile measure, was originally called WINDOW by the British, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaff_(countermeasure)
27 Offer pounds — nothing for chippy old artist? (9)
DONATELLO – DONATE (offer) LL (pounds) O (nothing). Donatello was a sculptor, not a painter, hence “chippy”.
28 Old transport company secures one ship (5)
LINER – LNER being the old London North East Railway, from 1921 to 1948; insert I. A reborn government-owned LNER is operating today, I’m a regular customer.
1 Geriatric state that of the heir’s nearest sibling? (6,9)
SECOND CHILDHOOD – I suppose if the heir is the first child, the heir’s nearest is the second child, and his state is “second childhood”. If you see what I mean. I fear my second childhood is not far away.
2 Scale of corporation that employs a million (5)
GAMUT – GUT (corporation) has A M inserted.
3 As quick as possible, that is how I am on time (7)
SOONEST – I’m not 100% sure how to parse this. I’m saying. SO ONE’S = that is how I am, T for time. Clearer explanations invited.
4 Lined up as told, given signal (4)
CUED – sounds like “queued”.
5 Polar bear’s prey, almost humanoid, competent on the water (10)
SEAMANLIKE – SEA(L) = polar bear’s prey almost; MANLIKE = almost humanoid. Not an everyday word, but it’s existed since 1796 apparently.
6 Property receiving new approvals (7)
ASSENTS – ASSETS (property) has N inserted.
7 Excessive working receiving quiet word at first (9)
OVERBLOWN – ON (working) has VERB (word) then LOW (quiet) inserted.
8 Fellow travellers stretch over couch with something for a pillow (5,2,1,7)
BIRDS OF A FEATHER – BIRD = stretch, prison term; SOFA = couch, FEATHER something for a pillow.
13 Occult Mass in unorthodox surroundings (10)
HERMETICAL – M for Mass inside HERETICAL = unorthodox.
15 Unusually, oceans in south rise (9)
18 In excess, announced what to do with the internet (7)
SURFEIT – sounds like SURF IT as you do the internet.
20 Nervous of fine and reprimand (7)
FEARFUL –  F(ine), EARFUL = reprimand.
23 Chapter soon becoming standard? (5)
CANON – C for chapter, ANON = soon.
24 County needs magistrate, right away (4)
MAYO – County in Ireland. MAYOR loses its R. Is a mayor a magistrate? A mayor used ex officio to have judicial powers in England but not any more. But no doubt some other mayors elsewhere do.


91 comments on “Times 28557 – no cheap holidays here.”

  1. Having gotten off to a flying start, and with BIRDS OF A FEATHER going in from def. and enumeration early on, I was surprised to run up against the obscure sense of CHAFF (looked it up). LNER was a guess! Hadn’t heard of CHARTWELL either, my POI. LOI was SEAMANLIKE… which doesn’t seem hard now!

  2. 23:12
    I would have been quicker if I hadn’t spent time trying to think of another bird than CHAFFINCH (‘chaff’ is definitely too obscure for this puzzle), trying to justify LINER (DNK LNER), and trying to parse SOONEST (LOI); I finally came up with the same analysis as Pip. BARNABAS is definitely feh, not meh.

  3. 36 minutes. I don’t think I’d heard of CHAFF for ‘window’ for the radar countermeasure and I didn’t understand SECOND CHILDHOOD until the explanation given by Pip. Interesting to see that only the second most famous DONATELLO is the one being clued here. Not that I would have known before, but from looking it up now, it doesn’t seem the most famous one could be described as a ‘chippy old artist?’ Maybe next time…

    Good to see a bit of anatomy / histology with INCUS, DENDRITE and my LOI FASCIA.

  4. I didn’t like this one at all as I found myself writing in too many answers not fully understanding why they were correct.

    I would have known CHAFF as the anti-missile device but who knew that it was originally called ‘window’? And as for the rest of that awful clue, ‘singer of colour’ as the definition? I got that ‘singer’ was referring to a bird as it so often does, but ‘of colour’ would have led me to expect the answer to be GOLDFINCH if I hadn’t had a checker in place that prevented me from writing it in. I now know that the male CHAFFINCH has quite colourful markings but is that widely known as a distinguishing feature?

    BARNABAS as a random name is obscure too and A BAS in the wordplay clued as ‘down with’ is beyond the elementary knowledge of French that one might be expected to require when solving a weekday puzzle in an English newspaper.

    How does oblige = make?

    The UK PM’s homes are famously at 10 Downing Street and Chequers. If referring to a PM who died nearly 60 years ago who happened to own another property privately I feel something more was required in the clue. I happened to know the answer when prompted by wordplay but why would anyone of a much younger generation? Or our overseas friends?

    1. Same here! Barney in How I Met Your Mother is a BarnabUs, apparently. I don’t think I’ve ever had to spell the name, either way…

      1. Wasn’t he one of Jesus’ apostles? Or a disciple, at least? Often the dedicatee of church. Never met (or even heard of) a real one.

  5. I thought that this setter was trying just a bit too hard. BARNABAS is poor and all birds are coloured. I enjoyed NETHER.

    1. Technically, a blackbird isn’t … and personally I wouldn’t call most of the little brown jobs coloured, (birds of colour?) either. A male chaffinch does deserve the accolade ..

      1. … as do most finches, I believe. They’re certainly more colourful than most everyday British birds.

  6. I enjoyed this puzzle, and am obviously not in tune with some of the other comments today.
    BARNABAS is a well-known saint, who gives his name to many parish churches. A male CHAFFINCH, as noted, is very colourful. CHARTWELL is a tourist attraction, and I have walked through its grounds when hiking. I admit to not remembering window = chaff, although I now do, from war stories when I was a child. DONATELLO can be literally ninja-turtled. I liked NETHER and LOI DENDRITE.

    17′ 23″.

    Thanks Pip and setter.

  7. 38:01. another fine crossword; another pink square. BARNABUS. I parsed SOONEST as SO (that is how) ONES (I am; one is) T. It was my LOI. COD SECOND CHILDHOOD. Like RobR (and no-one else?) I enjoyed this one, despite its flaws

  8. I found this challenging in places but I didn’t dislike it and finished in 29 minutes. I didn’t know that meaning of LOI HERMETICAL, and the CHAFF/Window was wasted on me, but I half-knew OGIVE and there aren’t that many eight-letter male names beginning with BARN. COD to FOI COST A BOMB. Thank you Pip and setter.

  9. By that Window what task what fingers ply,
    I plod wondering, a-wanting, just for lack
    Of answer …
    (GM Hopkins)

    Luckily the Window had to be Chaff (how apt).
    30 mins mid-brekker. Ticks for Nether and Bird,Sofa. Crosses for Chaff, Mayo and Barnabas.
    Ta setter and Pip.

  10. 8:33, which for the time being puts me at the top of the leaderboard, so I’m certainly not going to complain.
    The French at 12ac is certainly a bit OTT but BARNABAS seems eminently gettable from the checkers. If it’s regularly spelled BARNABUS the clue is unfair but is it?
    No idea about window/chaff of course but again with checkers it couldn’t be anything else.
    Edit: my leaderboard position has been usurped by a neutrino 😡

  11. Well I liked this one, I do love the obscure vocab.. only problem was wondering what a dendrite looks like. And a bit surprised to see a bas, perfectly normal French but I’ve never heard it used in English.
    Nice to see Donatello, the one with the purple mask 🙂
    Nether took a while, because I convinced myself that one of the numbers was 10

  12. 15 minutes

    Glad that I carefully spelt BARNABAS – my first thought was with a U. Wondered if “Window” in CHAFFINCH was somehow a misprint for Winnow as NHO other meaning.

    And LNER is also current so the “Old” seems unnecessary (and made me think twice).

    Thanks blogger and setter

  13. 50+mins but technically a DNF as had BARNABUS, a complete guess and wrong. A bas in French yes but in English? OGIVE a NHO but what else could it be? Agree with above comments too re CHAFFINCH. Didn’t enjoy this.

    Thanks pip and too tricksy setter.

        1. To be fair I am not sure the phrase means quite what I thought it did. I thought la bas = below and a bas = downwards ..

          1. ‘bas’ on its own means ‘low’; ‘là bas’ means ‘down there’; ‘downwards’ is ‘vers le bas’ or ‘en bas’; ‘à bas ….’ means ‘down with …’ and isn’t otherwise used. (Edit – I’ve since seen Rosédeprovence’s post which shows another use. It has reminded me that ‘mettre bas’ means ‘to give birth’, more often used of animals than people – pretty direct equivalent of the use of ‘drop’ with that meaning in English.)

            Isn’t it usually the case, where some knowledge of French is required to solve a clue, that the clue gives some indication that this is the case? Seems odd that there is no such indication here, especially when the French in question is not going to be known by many solvers.

            Poor clue.

    1. I’d like to know in what circumstances it’s used in French. The Collins entry which I suppose partially validates the clue is: à bas – EXCLAMATION down with! but “down with!” on its own in English doesn’t mean anything, it needs to be followed by something. So what might the French actually exclaim for example? I’m making a comparison with other exclamations like Encore! and Bis! which can stand alone and actually mean something.

      1. “A bas les aristos!” was a popular cry in the revolution, oft accompanied inevitably by “Les aristos à la lanterne!”

      2. I thought it just meant “Towards the bottom,” not necessarily an exclamation at all. But my French is mediocre at best

      3. Yes, interesting one Jack. “Mettre quelqu’un à bas” also means to beat someone (at something) also to put them down/to shame. I think GideAndre has that meaning correct. So I suppose “Down with” is near enough though a hint that we were looking for a French expression would have been helpful!

        1. Thanks, Rose, and others who have responded to my query above. I think you may have found the equivalent English translation of the exclamation I was seeking, i.e. Shame! ‘Down with’ may be literal, but out of context it doesn’t do it for me.

      4. Obviously you have never been a fan of The Scarlet Pimpernel. “A bas les aristos” – or words to that effect – was familiar to all of us in my schooldays. Maybe it’s a girls’ thing – I went to an all-girls grammar school. But this is the first time the phrase has come in useful…

    2. Ogden Nash wrote a poem with the title ‘À bas Ben Adhem’, which requires knowledge not only of the French phrase but also of Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase).

  14. 27m3s. Started off with ROAST at 16ac, which seemed a perfectly reasonable answer until it ran foul of checking letters.

  15. 23:41. Apart from just being a bit slow at seeing some of the wordplay, I was held up by a SURFEIT of obscurities, having no idea why BARNABAS or CHAFFINCH were the answers, nor that a MAYOR was a magistrate. I didn’t liked “needed for” as a hidden indicator in 17A – it doesn’t make sense to me. I liked COST A BOMB, though. Thanks Pip and setter.

      1. Still seems a bit banal though, bordering on tautological. ‘Small bone that is coming out of dodgy cuisine’ would be my offering.

  16. Hello everyone. I’m returning after a very long absence.

    DNF. I am trying to progress to the bigger puzzle from regular completion of the QC. Examples like this relying on arcane knowledge seem ridiculous and dissatisfying to me. I’m reassured to see others do too.

    It took me ages to get NETHER even with the parsing explained in this excellent blog. I far prefer being beaten by this sort of cleverness than obscurity.

    Thank you piquet.

    How do you experienced solvers stop your mind clinging to a single sense of words in a clue?

    1. I habitually list in my mind all the things a word could be, just to stop myself missing out. So for example, on the “Lower of two numbers”, I saw “lower” and thought “could mean just less than, cows also low (moo), could be cattle.” And “numbers”, I’m thinking both cardinal numbers and anaesthetics. That’s just experience of knowing how setters use those particular words to try and fool us. “Butter” is another common one, to clue a word meaning a sort of goat (which butts things).

      But a massive part of the skill of the setter is to try and stop you thinking of the right meaning for a word – so don’t worry if you don’t get it right straight away, that’s part of the fun 🙂

    2. A couple stiff whiskies can help you off the tramlines. Or a 10 minute break doing something else utterly unrelated. Or a snooze. There are lots of remedies which have worked for me.

  17. One wrong because I went for Barnabus. When I think about it, I do know the French term ‘a bas’, but I didn’t dredge it up from the depths and I had lost interest in the puzzle by the time a reached this as my last clue. The sooner I forget this puzzle the happier I shall be. I think that jackkt sums it up.

  18. 11:13, which turned out to be pretty quick considering the various hold-ups along the way, not least the rod I made for my own back by whacking in ACCESSION instead of ASCENSION. Even if you don’t necessarily love getting older, at least you sometimes find it means you’ve acquired the arcane knowledge you need for this sort of thing: it took a while, but I even twigged the CHAFF/WINDOW interface before submitting. I can see why not everyone would agree this was all fair, though.

  19. Well I finished this in, for me, a good time of 35 mins. But I thought BARNABAS was pretty unfair if you have only school French (not my handicap, fortunately). Knew OGIVE from its meaning in respect of bullets, but didn’t know it had another application. NHO Window as ‘chaff’, but there was nothing else that fitted the crossers.
    Nor did I know HERMETICAL in the occult sense, but again nothing else fitted and the wordplay was generous. Liked DENDRITE and COST A BOMB.

  20. Thanks, Pip, for unscrambling the second half of BARNABAS – a French idiom I remember now but that completely escaped me this morning; that, of course, does not make the clue any better.

  21. I thought the BARNABAS CLUE was OK. As I solved it I said to myself ‘a bas’, yes, that’s well-known, it comes in the Marseillaise. Of course it doesn’t (confusion with ‘Aux armes’) but various people have told me where it does occur. And what’s wrong with calling Barnabas a chap? Never mind the biblical reference, lots of Barneys are Barnabases. Chaff = window beyond my pale. 5dn was quite all right so long as one attached ‘almost’ to the correct word (the blog has ‘almost’ twice: it surely only applies to the seal). Which I didn’t for a long time, thus 59 minutes.

  22. 13:40. No complaints about any of the clues, but since this is probably my fastest time of the year there wouldn’t be.

  23. 26:04

    Fairly comfortable with this though same eyebrow-raises as others.

    BARNABAS – as a genealogist, one quickly finds that the saint used in many church names ends -AS. Having said that, I did have to think about it before entering…

    NHO OGIVE but the parsing was kind; CHAFF as window? – luckily the crossers made it possible to ignore the reference; HERMETICAL – not heard of this meaning.

    Thanks setter and P

  24. Same unknowns as others, but managed to work them out. Knew a bas, so didn’t fall into the bus trap. Liked COST A BOMB, BIRDS OF A FEATHER, SEAMANLIKE, DENDRITE and DONATELLO. FOI was GAMUT and LOI DENDRITE. 40:09. Thanks setter and Pip.

  25. DNF, defeated by SECOND CHILDHOOD and OGIVE. For the latter I put ‘Raise’, thinking it was about raising money (‘please contribute’) and that you arch/raise your eyebrows. So I ended up with ‘second childered’ for 1d, which clearly is nonsense, though by that stage I’d pretty much thrown in the towel.

    No problem with BARNABAS here – despite knowing little French, ‘a bas’ meaning ‘down with’ seemed perfectly reasonable and gettable. Didn’t know the chaff part of CHAFFINCH, took far too long to spot the fairly simple hidden INCUS, and relied on the wordplay for DENDRITE.

    COD Birds of a feather

  26. Well I see why people are moaning, but it was OK for me.
    A bas les Anglais!
    Remember chaff being called window in the Falklands war reports.
    I am certain we have had OGIVE fairly recently, and I think more than once.
    Definition of 13d HERMETICAL was a surprise when I checked it.
    I enjoyed the 4a COSTA FORTUNE.
    Never worked out 11a NETHER, so my thanks to the blogger are due.
    Pity the way it was clued stopped anyone Ninja-turtling DONATELLO.

  27. Just the one pink square, like so many others I went for a barnabus. To abus, meaning to get down off the bus? Okay, fair enough, forget that one. I do not like random names though. Otherwise all good. Didn’t know chaff for window, but happy to pick up a new meaning where it is generously clued.

  28. I don’t often comment, but wanted to come to the defence of this crossword. I really enjoyed it – seemed tricky at first sight, but I worked steadily round it and thought the clues rather clever. Have just got COVID so it was a good distraction. I did not understand chaffinch. Thought of it straight away because it began and ended with ch, but did not put it in till I had all the crossers. Thank you for explaining it.

  29. 19:46.
    I knew CHARTWELL as Winston’s gaff, but agree that a little more clarity in the clue would have been helpful. I biffed in CHAFFINCH from the crossers without spending too much time on parsing the clue; I’ve found the discussion of it here very interesting though. SURFEIT, DONATELLO & COMMON ERA all fun, and BARNABAS made me think of Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows…any fans in? 😉

  30. I found this a very pleasant solve. 25a was a new word for me, but readily solvable. I believe WINDOW was the code word for CHAFF (silver foil) used by second world war bombers to defeat German radar.
    Maybe the a bas should have had some sort of French indicator in the clue to be fairer?

  31. 30 minutes. I had to check HERMETICAL. That was the only one I hadn’t heard of. I knew the chaff/window connection and didn’t fall into the Barnabus trap – thanks to a teenage addiction to Sir Percy Blakeney and his exploits. An enjoyable puzzle with some nice aha moments.

  32. I already had two crossers to give me the likely BARN, so BARNABAS required no further thought – it’s never spelled with US anyway and, as RobR says, the saint has numerous C of E churches dedicated to him. On the whole an enjoyable crossword – completed in two stints, with a house clean in between. OGIVE rang the faintest of bells -probably from here – and INCUS was unknown, but luckily that didn’t matter. Having got —-FINCH, I was left with Bull, Chaf or Gold. The latter seemed the most likely and came readily to mind as our garden is full of them, but not understanding the first part I left it until I had crossers. I gather it’s something to do with radar, but neither word made any sense to me.
    Isn’t a mayor a ceremonial role, these days at least? When would a mayor be a magistrate? Lucky for me there are very few counties of four letters, even shortened.

    1. Mayor is a powerful role in some UK conurbations, especially London and Greater Manchester. It’s ceremonial in a lot of places, but I tip my hat to the good people of Bristol who, having been given a directly-elected mayor, had a referendum after, I think, two mayoral terms and voted to abolish the office altogether. Maybe they once again have a ceremonial mayor, but they don’t have the directly elected one any more.

        1. No – that’s a strange bit of cluing, but I was only responding to your question about mayors holding only ceremonial roles.

      1. We kept the ceremonial one all the way through, in fact, so we currently have both…

        1. The Lord Mayor is only the mayor of the City of London, so most of us only have one!

  33. Too many unknowns to confidently write in but I was surprised that a lot of my guesses turned out to be correct on checking the blog. These included the ‘chaff’ part, incus and barnabus. Happy to have remembered ogive. Dnk dendrite. The clue for ‘cued/cue’ was so much better the other day.

  34. Enjoyed most of this for about 35 minutes. I knew that chaff had been called ‘Window’ by the RAF during WWII from a TV documentary about 45 years ago – crazy how some things just stick in the memory. I believe the narrator was Raymond Baxter, a Spitfire pilot who became famous as a TV broadcaster in the 1960s and 1970s, especially for ‘Tomorrow’s World’. DENDRITE seems OK, but is it usual to clue the initial D as ‘end of day’? I can see it is one end of the word, but I would have expected ‘start of day’, or maybe even ‘break of day’ (or ‘day-break’). Interested in the views of anyone who knows ‘the rules’: I can’t remember seeing ‘end’ meaning ‘front end’ before.

    1. No, D is day on its own, and to cancel Mass comes at the end of it, or after it… Sorry, Richard, overlapped with you…

      1. Yes, I see that now. Sometimes the obvious needs to be pointed out! Thanks, both.

  35. This took 29 minutes plus, fortunately, another two for proofreading, so I didn’t actually submit CHAFEINCH and FEAREUL. But as much as I enjoyed yesterday’s puzzle, I agree with the criticism of today’s, even if one can dig up a dictionary that has some of the obscure meanings involved (CHAFFINCH’s window, of course, although the answer had to be that, and BARNABAS, which didn’t bother me so much as seeming unfair to all non-French speakers. After all, it is an English puzzle, innit). And none of the other clues were really outstanding, although I did enjoy the (SECOND CHILD)HOOD and the EARFUL in FEARFUL.

  36. I had to walk away from this one after fairly quickly solving two thirds of it, because I had started to think in circles, knowing I was on several wrong tracks, but unable get off them. A couple of hours later, I returned to it and everything immediately fell into place. There were some clues I couldn’t/didn’t bother to parse fully or at all (NETHER, GAMUT, CHAFFINCH), but I did get everything right.

    My LOI was BARNABAS; my next to last one in was OVERBLOWN and, once I had that ‘B’, it occurred to me that ‘à bas’ is French for ‘down with’ and that, with the more obvious ‘BARN’, gave me the answer. But is ‘à bas’ used in English? Not by me, or anyone I know or have read, and it is not in the concise O.E.D. Maybe someone used it over two hundred years ago while relating events of the French Revolution? Who knows? Pretty poor clue.

  37. I have remembered/realised we used to have some rolls of chaff/window in our Christmas decorations box when I was a kid. Like rolls of sellotape, but silver foil and obviously not sticky. We would break lengths off to drape over the Christmas tree. Tinsel was probably rationed

  38. Biffed barnabas and chaffinch using crossers and agree with misgivings mentioned by others. Spent time on nether assuming some manipulation of “ten”, had never heard of ether=number, so biffed again…

  39. Thanks for the blog. I think 3d works better if you break it up:

    That is how = SO (eg so it goes = that is how it goes)
    I am = ONE’S (one is)
    and then T

  40. I vaguely remembered the CHAFF-WINDOW connection but was put off by the OF COLOUR. The whole thing took me far longer than it should have — 34’38” — with HERMETICAL, DENDRITE and SEAMANLIKE blocking the way at the end. I blame tiredness.

  41. “A bas”, “window” meaning chaff and “hermetical” were unknown to me but their corresponding answers were all guessable from the wordplay so no grumbles from me. Thanks for the blog.

  42. Too tough for me- OGIVE, CHAFFINCH, SECOND CHILDHOOD etc.
    Having looked at the comments, I don’t feel too bad, but its another week lost in my attempt at 5 out of 5 all correct and unaided.

  43. I enjoyed this. Took me 38 mins but no big pauses. LOI NETHER which I think was the hardest clue. Thought SURFEIT was clever but noone else has mentioned it so I guess I’m alone there! I also know à bas from the scarlet pimpernel! And Barnabas is an apostle I think?? definitely spelled with an a. Also didn’t know the window / chaff thing.

  44. Knew window/chaff, LNER and chartwell but went with barnabus not knowing a bas and didn’t know meaning of hermetical. ☹️

  45. Completed in just over the hour with 2 wrong. Barnabus, and 21 across where I put DONTRITE (don’t rite).
    Thanks as usual to the blogger and setter.
    My wordle also came to an end at 134 when I forgot to do it..

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