Times Quick Cryptic 2215 by Jalna

Hello everyone.  Thanks to Jalna for a puzzle which I found lots of fun and thought perfectly pitched for the slot.

Time after time, I don’t have a clear favourite to mention here, but this time I do: 17d.  I also liked the gift of frilly clothing in 14a.  Neither of these clues have misleading definitions, but both have delightful wordplay.

My biggest hold-up was 5d (I have a bit of a history with anagrams: when I’m not being slow unscrambling them as here, I’m missing perfectly obvious indicators), and my last in was 16a.

Definitions are underlined in the clues below.  In the explanations, quoted indicators are in italics and I’ve capitalised and emboldened letters which appear in the ANSWER.  For clarity, I omit most link words and some juxtaposition indicators.

1a Slow, scruffy members of parliament? (4)
OWLS — An anagram of (… scruffy) SLOW, a parliament being the collective noun for owls.  Owls are often clued as members of parliament, so this is one to remember if it’s new to you
4a A Scotsman assuming the name of a place in Greece (8)
ATHENIAN A and IAN (Scotsman) around (assuming) THE and N (name)
8a Sink filled with large fish (8)
FLOUNDER FOUNDER (sink) containing (filled with) L (large)
9a Uncultivated land with space for retreat (4)
MOOR ROOM (space) in reverse (for retreat)
10a Poet excluded in conversation (4)
BARD — BARRED (excluded), sound-alike (in conversation)
11a Final, net value adjusted (8)
EVENTUAL NET VALUE anagrammed (adjusted)
12a Empty garage next to little house (6)
GEMINI — Without inner letters (empty), GaragE next to MINI (little).  The zodiacal meaning of house is another thing worth remembering
14a Inheritance gift of frilly clothing for example (6)
LEGACY LACY (frilly) is around (clothing) EG (for example)
16a Female effortlessly acquires billions, probably (8)
FEASIBLY F (female) + EASILY (effortlessly) gains an insertion of (acquires) B (billions)
18a Small, pale-coloured bird (4)
SWAN S (small) + WAN (pale-coloured)
19a I try embodying a Shakespearean character (4)
IAGO I and GO (try) incorporating (embodying) A
20a Person arranged extremely sensible answer (8)
RESPONSE PERSON anagrammed (arranged) + the outer/extreme letters of (extremely) SensiblE
22a Rather a few, eh? (8)
SOMEWHAT SOME (a few) + WHAT (eh?)
23a Sumptuous portion of yakitori chicken (4)
RICH — A part of (portion of) yakitoRI CHicken
2d State benefit is thoroughly reasonable, we’re told (7)
WELFARE — A homophone of (… we’re told) WELL (thoroughly) and FAIR (reasonable)
3d Crew ultimately provides muscle (5)
SQUAD — The last letter of (ultimately) provideS + QUAD (muscle)
4d Admiral regularly turned up to offer assistance (3)
AID — Alternate letters reversed of (… regularly turned up) aDmIrAl
5d Fooling around and also hyper, possibly (9)
HORSEPLAY ALSO HYPER anagrammed (possibly)
6d Guy supervising entrance held up a form of ID (4,3)
NAME TAG GATEMAN (guy supervising entrance) written upwards (held up, in a down entry)
7d Perfume from a city in Italy (5)
AROMA A + ROMA (city in Italy).  Rome is indeed in Italy, of course, but the “in Italy” is really needed here to indicate that we are using the local name for the city
11d Hired gun travelling round British capital (9)
EDINBURGH HIRED GUN anagrammed (travelling) surrounding (round) B (British).  While B turns out to be used in the wordplay rather than the definition part of the clue, putting “British capital” in the solver’s mind is immensely helpful – at least it was for this solver!
13d Rhinos moving east away from water? (7)
INSHORE RHINOS anagrammed (moving) + E (east)
15d Student group starts to improve and creates great work (7)
CLASSIC CLASS (student group) + the first letters of (starts to) Improve and Creates
17d Time after time, love is a source of inspiration (5)
ERATO T (time) after ERA (time) + O (love)
18d Singer’s first substandard track (5)
SPOOR Singer’s first letter + POOR (substandard)
21d Compile a crossword collection (3)
SET — Two meanings

79 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic 2215 by Jalna”

  1. 20:21. Held up by typing in Gate Man and not realizing for several minutes it was NAME TAG called for. GEMINI, SOMEWHAT and FEASIBLY all took a long time to solve. HORSEPLAY too should have been obvious but for some reason wasn’t. Thanks for entertaining blog!

  2. I didn’t know the word erato or spoor but I did remember the zodiac house thing.

    You have no idea how much my brain wanted to convince me that Yeats was pronounced Yeets and that is what the setter meant by ‘excluding’ a poet

    NAME TAG was my favourite. I love clues that play around with the spacing on words, it is always so unexpected for me

    1. Keats/Yeats; English/Irish. Although ‘tea’ at least used to be ‘tay’ in England; e.g. Pope (addressing Queen Anne):
      There thou, great Anna, whom three realms obey,
      Dost sometimes counsel take–and sometimes tea.

      Erato is the muse of lyric poetry; she shows up here often.

    2. My toddler has taken to shouting “Yeet!” when throwing things, but she pronounces it “yate” … I was baffled but now I’m going to imagine she’s making a highly cultured poetic reference!

      (I have a strange affection for the word “yeet” and would love to see it in a crossword someday!)

      1. I also love the word yeet and await its inclusion in a crossword in 50 years time well after its usage has fallen out of favour

        Why defenestrate when you can yeet

        1. Haha! Yes, sadly, ’twill be many years before my dream comes true. Well, I’ll just have to set my own puzzle with it!

          I really wish people WOULD use “yeet” instead of “defenestrate” because no matter how many times I remind myself of the actual definition, my brain parses it as some kind of decapitate – deforestation hybrid and is convinced it means “chop off the top of a tree” :-/

  3. Made my 6′ goal, but just barely. LOI SQUAD caused me some trouble. I liked 14ac LEGACY. 5:49.

  4. Like vinyl1 I also came to a grinding halt in the NW segment with 1ac, 2d and 3dn refusing to be solved until well past my target 10 minutes. I completed eventually at 14 minutes making 10 consecutive QCs that I have needed between 11 and 14 minutes, the most recent success having been on Kitty’s last blogging day (22 August).

    On reflection I was particularly annoyed about missing the parliament of OWLS for so long, as it’s a collective noun I know only too well.

  5. Hard throughout but fun. Only four acrosses on the first pass with SWAN my FOI at 18A. The pace picked up from there until I ran into trouble in the NW where things went very slowly before FLOUNDER, SQUAD, OWLS (arrrgh), WELFARE and BARD finally fell in that order. All green in 21.

  6. One day I’ll remember which birds are collectively known as a parliament – I always want it to be crows for some unknown reason.
    A fun puzzle which, the NW apart, I didn’t find too testing. I started with MOOR and finished in the NW with the OWLS, WELFARE and SQUAD triumvirate.
    Unlike our setter I spent some time trying to think of more far flung capitals that EDINBURGH before sufficient checkers pointed me in the right direction.
    Lots of contenders for COD but my vote goes to SOMEWHAT for the chuckle when the penny dropped and a mention in dispatches for IAGO.
    Crossed the line in 9.26

    1. Parliament of Owls, Murder of Crows, Unkindness of Ravens etc. I love all this stuff. It adds to the richness of the language.

        1. I do understand that perspective as it seems somewhat self-indulgent and often entirely random with obscure etymology – WHO decided and when? Is it a FLUTTER of butterflies or a KALEIDOSCOPE? Does it matter? Not really, although the latter is lovely (and apt) image and, to me, that is point enough.

          1. Agreed partially, Mangoman, but it’s the occasional apparent complete randomness that’s so interesting. But then you think about it and wonder if there’s more behind it in ancient folklore. A gathering of crows and their species can be sinister (hence ‘murder’ and ‘unkindness’ – Alfred Hitchcock made money out of it!), and owls are traditionally associated with wisdom, hence ‘parliament’ although I’m not so sure that quite holds up in the modern era!

          2. I have a delightful little book called A Conspiracy of Ravens, which explains that some of these names date back to a fad among hunters from the mid-15th century. There are references to them in The Book of St Albans from 1486, which is a book about hunting, hawking and heraldry. My book is published by the Bodleian Library and includes lots of examples and lovely 18thC woodcuts – worth searching out if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

  7. “North by northwest” issues here too. It took me *such* a long time to see SQUAD and then OWLS. The PDM for OWLS was a real forehead-slapper – what a terrific clue, worth the price of admission on its own.

    FOI AID, LOI & COD OWLS, time 09:28 for 1.6K and an OK Day.

    Many thanks Jalna and Kitty.


  8. 20 minutes.
    FOI: AID.
    Took a while to get going working my way through with the help of checking letters and finishing in the NW corner all parsed.
    Favourite GEMINI.

  9. Was on for a good time before a complete blank at 3d, and an alphabet trawl that skipped Q, to leave me one short before pressing Reveal in a Huff.

    ERATO has come up before and I still don’t recall it. Do we need to learn all nine Muses?

    This “parliament of owls”, “murder of crows” is a bit tiresome. Zoologists tend not to use them, and “helpful crossword books” list them in their hundreds. The collective noun ‘Whoop of gorillas’ and ‘Flange of baboons’ have made their way into a few text books from scientists who were fans of “Not the Nine O clock News”, with the Gerald the gorilla sketch. (“Wild? I was bloody livid”).

  10. My FOI was OWLS, which seem to have been assembling themselves in crossword-land quite regularly of late. WELFARE and SQUAD then allowed me to FLOUNDER on through the puzzle with an EVENTUAL LEGACY of a CLASSIC, all green, RESPONSE in a SOMEWHAT reasonable time. SPOOR was LOI. 7:00. Thanks Jalna and Kitty.

  11. Ah well, an excellent puzzle with some fascinating clues but it tipped me a couple of minutes into the SCC. A messy, jumpy solve on my part after a fruitless beginning in the NW. I smiled at some of the clues (most have been mentioned already above) and cheerfully tip my hat to Jalna for a sound beating today.
    I hope things improve tomorrow. The QC is still veering closer to the 15squared in parts (but enjoyably in this case). Well worth a re-visit via Kitty’s blog,
    Thanks, both. John M.
    Note. ERATO has led to many comments. I know it as an excellent CD label (classical).

  12. Taken into the SCC today by the NW corner, and the same 3 clues that bothered others – 1, 2 and 3. 22 minutes needed to sort it all out in the end. I wondered if a theme was developing with Athens, Rome and Edinburgh all getting a mention? A good challenge – thanks both.

  13. CCD x 2 as had to look up Poet (a specific one, I thought – oh dear) and the muse.
    Quite a difficult crossword, I thought. Biffed OWLS but didn’t know the collective noun. Struggled with the anagram HORSEPLAY.
    FOsI AID, FLOUNDER. Liked LEGACY, SOMEWHAT, SQUAD, FEASIBLY and esp WELFARE. Biffed but couldn’t parse eg NAME TAG, so blog much needed, Kitty.

  14. Beaten by OWLS, WELFARE & GEMINI.

    Cross that I wasn’t imaginative to get past MPs for OWLS as I know and like the collective ‘parliament’ and suspect that would have got me to WELFARE) or couldn’t think past an imagined Italian word unknown to me once I had GE…I because remember now that I know that house sometimes referred to star signs!

    Fairly beaten but should have done better.

    Thanks Jalna and Kitty

    1. Once I had GE my brain really wanted it to be GERALT, no matter how many times I reminded it that the guy from The Witcher is not a house

      1. I am aware of The Witcher but not in any detail so wasnt distracted there, but it does often happen that something simply will NOT be shifted from one’s brain, causing havoc with a solve. Mine wasn’t helped by having inserted ONSHORE not INSHORE. The correct’I’ may have jogged me in the right direction but from small hasty errors do success or failure result!

  15. A disappointingly slow solve given I got OWLS straight away, a clue I very much enjoyed. There are some great collective nouns e.g. a coalition of cheetahs and a crash of rhinos. My penultimate solve WELFARE and LOI SQUAD needed about 5 mins of my 15:40 time. I didn’t parse LEGACY either.

  16. Owls was actually my foi, so I thought straight away that this was going to be a cut above the usual Monday QC. 26mins later, my trusty crow-bar had teased out the last three answers in the NE corner: Horseplay, Name Tag and Athenian, for a slow but nevertheless satisfying solve. Couldn’t see the parsing of Legacy, so thank you for that Kitty, and indeed the rest of the blog. Invariant

  17. I agree with Kitty that this was a perfectly pitched QC. A few crosswordy things you have to learn like OWLS, but the answer was gettable if you had WELFARE; house for Gemini another.
    AS it happens my LOI was WELFARE after OWLS. 12 minutes.
    A lot to like. COD maybe to SOMEWHAT.

  18. A very enjoyable puzzle, for all that it took twice my usual time to solve. I am another one who was held up for ages on OWLS and WELFARE. My LOI was ERATO – I really ought to make the effort to learn the names of the Muses.

  19. Another one here who had trouble in the nw corner. I was on course for a target ten minute finish with just 2dn, 3dn and 10ac to get. It was a full seven minutes before I worked out WELFARE and the other two quickly followed, allowing me to stumble over the line in 16.36. All perfectly fairly clued so no complaints.

  20. Hardly a *quick* cryptic for me as I dragged myself across the finish line after two full hours of squinting and muttering, but I’ll happily take a solve any day! Though a bit deflating as I got OWLS and WELFARE right off the bat — literally just a few seconds for each — and thought “Aha, I’m really getting the hang of this! Today will be a breeze!” *wince*

    22a left me baffled, as I’m not sure how “somewhat” and “rather” are synonymous… I think of “rather” as meaning “a lot!”

    I came very close to giving up and revealing the answer for 6d because I was so sure it was going to be some specifically British license that I’d never heard of. Very glad I didn’t because it would have been awfully embarrassing when NAME TAG appeared.

    Wasn’t familiar with the zodiacal meaning of “house” (must try to remember it) but from the clue and crossing letters knew 12a had to be GEMINI … my theory was that it’s what Brits call a duplex, haha

    1. It appears that more than a few found it to be rather hard, where as the rest found it somewhat easier.🙂

  21. Probably in a minority, but I found this tough. Managed to drag myself over the line in 39 mins (mainly out of stubbornness to see if I could finish).

    2dn “Welfare” took me ages, but is of course a bit of a chestnut (and a famous Ali G line). Quite a few I DNK as well: 17db “Erato”, house for zodiac sign, 1ac “Owls”.

    FOI – 4dn “Aid”
    LOI – 2dn “Welfare”
    COD – 22ac “Somewhat”

    Thanks as usual!

  22. Held up by SQUAD, but otherwise one of my quickest times for a while. Finally out of the SCC crossing the line in 17 mins. Very pleased to see ERATO as I set about learning all nine muses for crossword purposes (and as a memory exercise for my ageing brain) and only tested myself yesterday 😆 Pleased also to get GEMINI as I remembered the alternative meaning of house. WELFARE made me laugh and I also liked SOMEWHAT. Many thanks Kitty and Jalna.

  23. Excellent puzzle which for some reason I was completely on Jalna’s wavelength for and whizzed through in 7 minutes. Not even the wonderful misdirection of 18A’s “small bird” leading to Swan delayed me.

    Great blog too – thank you Kitty for taking the time to add the extra and fuller explanations. A good start to the week.

    1. I accidentally* printed this out under the impression it was the 15×15! My time of 9.45 gave it away, as it would have been my third best time for ‘The Biggun’.

      FOI 1ac OWLS
      LOI 10ac BARD
      COD 3dn SQUAD
      WOD 5dn HORSEPLAY! ‘Equus?’ might have been enough for the clue.

      * On edit, I note that on the Times Crossword page today the grids for the QC and the 15×15 have been transposed! And I fell for it through force of habit.

  24. Had to call this one a DNF after having no clue that MPs can be referred to as owls. Never heard of that before. I did think of owls early on in the puzzle but dismissed it.

    Had to use aids a number of times, for such answers as Cato. Cato a Shakespearean character? Nonsense! Everybody knows Cato is Inspector Clouseau’s home help 🤣

    1. Mr. Wyvern, MPS are not referred to as owls! Which is why you have ‘never heard of that before’! You have it the wrong way round!
      A parliament is the collective noun for owls 🦉 🦉 🦉 🦉 🦉 🦉! Meldrew

  25. “Perfectly pitched for the slot”? Sorry Kitty, not in my book. This was much too difficult for a QC, IMHO.

    66 minutes for me with all my fingers crossed, as I DNK GEMINI, ERATO and SPOOR. My last two in were BARD and WELFARE, but plenty of others (e.g. IAGO, NAME TAG) gave me a great deal of trouble. I’m really struggling with these puzzles at the moment, and have been for the past 6 weeks or so. I’m not sure why, but my success rate has plummeted and my average time for those I do finish has risen from 30-35 to 50+ minutes.

    Mrs Random put me to shame, yet again, with her time of 28 minutes. She described it as “difficult”.

    Many thanks to Jalna and Kitty.

    1. I often have periods that switch between having a series of successes followed by a series of DNFs. I try to convince myself that the setters have got together and decided to make these puzzles more difficult to deter beginners. I know that to be nonsense but it is tempting for me to think that when I have a week or so have bad runs. However, I’m too stubborn to allow them to do that 😄

      I also find that if I have a series of DNFs then I start to get demoralised and that affects my ability and patience to solves these puzzles. I start to approach them with a negative attitude.

      But when I solve one, especially without aids, then my confidence grows and I start to perform better.

      So I know how you feel 👍

    2. Don’t despair. I am missing my target solve time of 9 mins on an alarmingly frequent basis and my DNF quota has increased. See Blighter’s comment as well! Having said that I thought today’s QC was very clever and I enjoyed the challenge.

    3. Keep going! I’ve been struggling for a while and I think the QCs are getting harder. There are some tough ones today. To be honest, I guessed a few and was lucky to be correct.


    4. This might sound daft, but why don’t you have a crack at one of the ‘easy’ 15 x 15s ? (Use the Snitch history to find one less than 75.) Don’t bother timing yourself, just pick it up now and again over a week or so. The reason I suggest this is that you need exposure to words like Erato and Spoor, and it’s frustrating if you only come across them for the first time when you are working against the clock.

  26. 9.52

    Bit below par time for me but not complaining. Like some others struggled in the NW with FLOUNDER and SQUAD the last two in. Was wanting “crew” to be the past participle of “boast” hence overlooked the more obvious possibility.

    Nice neat and tidy puzzle with some smooth surfaces. Liked GEMINI

    Thanks Kitty and Jalna

  27. Garbage from me again. Gave up on SQUAD and BARD at about 10 mins.

    Onwards and upwards.


  28. This is really no different to Mastermind’s General Knowledge round.
    The brighter sparks can get some fifteen answers correct in just two and a half minutes. But they have to be consistent, round after round. Their depth of reading, their ability to retain facts and their experience are paramount.

    One comes across this in Brain of Britain, attending Championship crosswords, American Spelling Bees and elements of IQ tests, which I would assume is a dirty word hereabouts. But just watch Stephen Fry on YouTube or Verlaine on the internet and most, if not all of us are unable compete, Mr. Magoo and Jason excepted. Crossword Champions have also been Soduko Champions, these skills are not mutually exclusive.

    When I last attended a Times Championship in Picadilly, I got talking to a lovely man who usually finished under 20 minutes, but he never bothered to fill in the answers! His copy of the Saturday Times was in mint condition! I didn’t believe him at first, but he then verbally rattled off the answers within a couple of minutes.
    Today the Phils of our world will be done and dusted in under five minutes, consistently. Ever paused to think why?

  29. I thought this was very fair. But I guess if you can finish it then that’s probably what you think. My favourite by miles is 2dn.

      1. True Mr M. If I can finish one it’s easy or at least doable. If I can’t it is too difficult or a bad one. My wife laughs at me because she does them all very quickly. I just think they are all quite fun whether I can do them or not.

  30. All fair in retrospect, but quite tough overall and I can see that it would have been tougher for people without a few crosswords under their belts already. Constellations being houses, a SPOOR being a track and a knowledge of Muses are all things that I wouldn’t have had a clue about until I started doing these. Anyway, it was the NW corner that really did it for my time. In the end I finished in 34:02 with WELFARE. COD to ATHENIAN. Thanks all.

  31. Am posting without having read the comments yet as I have to go out shortly, but I promise I’ll read them later. So apologies if I’m repeating what everyone else has said.
    This would have been a quick one if I’d remembered the rule about putting a Q in front of a random (sorry arbitrary) U. But I forgot that basic rule so struggled for a couple of minutes on 3d 🙄 Not so good on muscles either! Otherwise I thought this was most enjoyable – fingers crossed I’m starting to get the hang of Jalna!
    Lots of ticks and smiles today – GEMINI, HORSEPLAY and SPOOR were particularly good, I thought.
    FOI Owls; LOI Squad; COD Erato; Time – about 9 minutes
    Thanks Jalna and (in advance) Kitty

    Later on: Interesting to see the variety of opinions today. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t read the comments before posting above – I wonder if it would have affected my view of the puzzle. I didn’t parse NAME TAG, I’ve now realised, so thanks to Kitty for that!

  32. Northwest corner also caused us problems and we spent the an hour with the puzzle almost complete.

  33. Newbie here (18 months in), still battling to beat 15 mins. And as long as there are answers like “erato” I never will. IRL I’m a journalist and author but i have never come across that word.

    And “gate man”? Come off it. There is no such term. Door man, or doorman, yes.

    Oh, and “Ian” for “Scotsman”? For heaven’s sake! Scottish Ians are usually spelt Iain anyhow.

    1. Dear Mr. Newbie, despite your harrumph,at our compound, we have six uniformed gatemen at anyone time, on twelve hour shifts, here at Splendid City in Shanghai. They wore Hazmats during the recent lockdowns. They are also to be found in Singapore, America, South Africa, Australia and many large, gated, cummunity properties and large hotels across the world.
      I think you need to get outdoors a bit more often. Meldrew

      1. I dream of the day when I too can live in a gated community and avoid the riff-raff. It seems like ever since the French Revolution the proletariat has been getting so uppity!

    2. I agree about the unfamiliarity of Gateman, Rossminster, but turns out it is a normal term for Gatekeeper or Doorman. Despite our travels, have never lived in a gated community as such. Eastern compounds had guards, not gatemen, imd (In my day).

  34. Another one to add to the DNF collection, which is the only collection I have. Many thanks for the very useful blog.

  35. Not thinking well enough today to spot 1a parliament/Owls so missed that (despite the acknowledging anagram indicator) and also 3d Squad despite having the U and D, so a DNF. Annoyed with myself – seeing 1a would have led to a satisfactory 3d. At least I am not alone! Really liked 12a Gemin, 19a Iago and 22a Somewhat.
    FOI 4a Athenian
    LOI 17d Erato
    COD 12a Gemini
    Tough for a Monday, but that’s partly down to me being slow on the uptake. Hoping my brain is clearer tomorrow!

  36. You don’t really need to learn all nine muses, as Erato is odds-on, her name being far the most setter-friendly!

  37. There were some well hidden anagrams today and a lot of clever misdirection. I struggled with some parsing and am very grateful for the blog. Guessed Erato from the wordplay but it was a new one on me. I don’t need the pressure of a clock when I’m solving these puzzles but I was somewhere in the region of 35 mins. A tough start to the week!

  38. I found this harder than average. Unlike most commenters, I did not have a lot of trouble with the northwest corner, but it took me an age to get Erato and Somewhat. I had never heard of Erato, but worked out the word from the parsing. I liked Owls and Name tag. Managed to parse all the clues, so didn’t need the blog this time – but thank you Kitty, and thanks to Jalna for the prolonged entertainment!

  39. Interesting comments today, thanks. Seems like most of you found this one harder than usual, which just reminds me that I’m terrible at gauging Quick Cryptic difficulty! This was my first sub-6 mins in over two weeks – but clearly the pitfalls I managed to miss when solving, I also managed to misjudge the size of when blogging.

    Glad to see the extra comments are useful. It’s easy to fall out of the habit of including this detail, particularly when there are always helpful contributors around to answer questions as they arise. It may depend on time and energy, but I will try to keep that up.

    The setter should be encouraged to see that at least the enjoyment level seems generally high, and that there are lots of different favourites cited.

  40. Tough – especially the NW corner, as others have found. Once OWLS clicked, the others followed. Guessed ERATO (I remembered an old record label so named: only word that fitted!), took a while with HORSEPLAY anagram and also guessed GEMINI: didn’t know the HOUSE link.

  41. Found this hard.
    Failed at the end with ERATO and SOMEWHAT
    ATHENIAN doesn’t seem to match the definition of a place in Greece.
    Ok if you know all the hackneyed old crossword defs. I don’t- prefer more modern wordplay.
    But some nice clues apart from the those.

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