Times Quick Cryptic No 2559 by Orpheus

Welcome to the last Quick Cryptic of 2023. It uses the horrid portcullis grid, but the puzzle is, I think, quite gentle as I finished in 3:58.  It helps to know your wildlife, though. [Edit: I was lucky to have all the other GK too – most others haven’t found it particuarly easy]. Thank-you Orpheus.

Fortnightly Weekend Quick Cryptic. This time it is Sawbill’s turn to provide the extra weekend entertainment. You can find the crossword here. If you are interested in trying our previous offerings you can find an index to all 93 here.

Definitions underlined in bold italics, (Abc)* indicating anagram of Abc, {deletions} and [] other indicators.

7 Antelope that’s primarily Kenyan, unknown down under (4)
KUDU -Initial letters of [primarily] Kenyan Unknown Down Under. This antelope is indeed found in Kenya.
8 Prisoner possibly penning note for close friend (8)
INTIMATEINMATE (Prisoner, possibly) [penning] TI (note).
9 Catchphrase in register kept by hospital (6)
SLOGANLOG (register) in SAN (hospital).
10 Scanty contribution to welcome agreement (6)
MEAGRE – Hidden in, [contribution to], welcoME AGREement.
11 Give up, almost entirely (4)
QUIT -[almost] QUIT{e} (entirely).
12 Amphibious soldier, chap finally drowned in Italian lake (8)
COMMANDOMAN (chap) and last letter of drowneD in COMO (Italian lake).
15 Bearded English king dipping into drink (8)
WHISKERYE (English) R (Rex; king) in WHISKY (drink). Thumbs up to our setter for using the Scottish spelling, not the inferior Irish or American.
17 Ambassador attending qualifying round (4)
HEATH.E. (His Excellency; Formal title for an ambassador) AT (attending).
18 Convincing information digested in bed (6)
COGENTGEN (information) in COT (bed). My current bedtime reading is this week’s Weekend Quick Cryptic compiler Sawbill’s excellent 3rd book. This is Not a Pipe.
21 Payoff producer of sketches returned (6)
REWARD – DRAWER (producer of sketches) [returned].
22 Negligent, lacking transport round estate, ultimately (8)
CARELESSCARLESS (lacking transport) around estatE [ultimately].
23 The Spanish graduate’s island (4)
ELBAEL (The in Spanish) BA (Bachelor of Arts; graduate).
1 Leave animal’s coat on Irish lake (8)
FURLOUGHFUR (animal’s coat) LOUGH (Irish lake).
2 Move fast, finally producing financial statement (6)
BUDGETBUDGE (move) fasT [finally].
3 Strange place accommodating pub, a towering peak (8)
PINNACLEINN (pub), in [strange] (place)* .
4 Staunch son encountered going north (4)
STEMS (son), MET (encountered) going upwards [going north] -> TEM.
5 The writer’s friend, a native of Africa (6)
IMPALAI’M (the writer’s) PAL (friend) A. Our second African antelope. Not the same as a springbok, which is what I always thought [Thanks Bob for the comment].
6 Gawp endlessly, finding celebrity (4)
STARSTAR{e} (gawp) without the final letter, [endlessly].
13 Civic dignitary from Irish county on ship (8)
MAYORESSMAYO (Irish county) RE (on) SS (ship).
14 Ride a bit awkwardly, prompting harangue (8)
DIATRIBE – (ride a bit)* [awkwardly].
16 Former nurse welcoming day in country  (6)
SWEDENSEN (State Enrolled Nurse; a former designation of a qualified nurse) outside WED (day)
17 Glaring mistake identifying monkey (6)
HOWLER – Double definition.
19 Examination — of the ears, do we hear? (4)
ORAL – Sounds like, [do we hear], AURAL (of the ears).
20 Group raised around eastern river (4)
TEES – SET (group) going upwards, [raised], about E (eastern), the river in North-East England which I grew up near.

95 comments on “Times Quick Cryptic No 2559 by Orpheus”

  1. For some reason I found that the hardest QC I’ve ever done.

    I think it’s the geographical clues plus all of the clues that were words inside other words. Also a whole bunch of animals I didn’t know – some I could get with wordplay some I couldn’t.

    Some old words too.. Sen? Do people still call the hospital a San? I didn’t know the HE thing for ambassador, seems handy to know though.

    My vocab was really lacking plus I think some of the wordplay led me astray with some red herrings

    Ah well, next one will be a New Year!

    1. SRN and SEN for nurse (State Registered and State Enrolled) come up from time to time in the QC, so worth remembering. I always thought San[atorium] for hospital was more of a 15×15 clue, so was a bit surprised to see it here today.

  2. 12:55. Didn’t know SEN and failed for a long while to separate the fast from move to see BUDGE. COGENT was slow for me too because I wasted time trying to think of a synonym for convincing instead of just concentrating on the simple wordplay of GEN in COT. QUITE was hard too because my first thought of its definition isn’t entirely.

  3. 10 minutes. I thought by now I must have met every conceivable type of antelope in a crossword puzzle, but KUDU was new to me, and indeed new to TfTT as it has never appeared before today, even in a Mephisto. Although the answer was easy enough to deduce from wordplay there are something like 18 other possibilities to fit ?U?U, several of them much more QC-friendly, so one wonders why our setter didn’t plump for say, guru, Lulu or Zulu instead.

    1. Kudu came easily, not because I encountered one in its habitat, but because it was the name of a 1970s’ soul jazz record label founded by Creed Taylor. Some great albums by Joe Beck, Hank Crawford, Grant Green, Idris Muhammad, Esther Phillips, Johnny ‘Hammond’ Smith, Dr Lonnie Smith, and Grover Washington Jr. I needed to know what the name meant at the time…

    2. Saw lots of Kudu on safari in Kruger Park, and then tried it straight after from the shop in biltong, a bit guiltily.

  4. Got through a lot of clues quite quickly but was held up for a long long time on my last few answers, BUDGET and SLOGAN, which in hindsight I should have solved far more quickly (as is always the case).
    Had to think about a few things, like whether a COMMANDO is really an amphibious soldier, or whether digested in 6a was anything more than a filler word, and took some time to think of an Italian lake other than Garda.

  5. Another tough one! Sorry John, but I now largely discount the blogger’s view of what is gentle or not, though I value the blog itself very much.

    DNF after 30 mins. NHO SAN, SEN, H.E. Managed to get all except BUDGET and QUIT, though couldn’t parse SWEDEN, SLOGAN or HEAT.

    Have a lovely weekend everyone! 🤗

    1. Empathise with you on HE, SEN and SAN. Think “sanitarium” if that helps. They are definitely words to put in your crossword memory palace as they come up from time to time. Can’t say I’ve ever seen “at”=attending but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.

      30mins is decent time even if you didn’t quit(e) finish off 👍

    2. Sorry about that. I see I would have been in the top 10 on the QSnitch, which is well above my rightful position.

  6. Thank you for your help, and sorry to nit-pick, but I think you’ll find that the Impala and the Springbok are similar but separate species. (5A)

  7. This felt harder than my time would suggest but I was only really delayed by my last two in. BUDGET (forgot to lift and separate) and the parsing of SWEDEN where I got stuck on the day being d and, as usual, couldn’t for the life of me remember that an old nurse is SEN – however many times I see it, it never seems to stick.
    Finished in a pleasing 7.08.
    Thanks to John for the blog and Orpheus for an enjoyable puzzle

  8. I’m with Tina and Pi-C above about, respectively, the difficulty of this grid and most bloggers’ sense of ease or otherwise of the puzzles.

    This one beat me all ends up. SAN, SEN and most of the northwest beat me today.

    Still, thanks Orpheus and John.

  9. Came through in door of the SCC time, which I’ll take happily in a slow-brain week.
    COMMANDO was obvious although I don’t think of them as necessarily amphibious, and the dictionaries I skimmed seem to agree. There are certainly Royal Marine Commandos, Plymouth has had loads of them over the years but sadly fewer now.
    Enough thinking to amuse but not so much as to annoy, so ideal for me today. Happy New QC ( other puzzles are available, I am told) Year to all.

  10. 10:17 (Cnut is crowned King of England, and marries Emma of Normandy)

    I did not find this too hard, with none of the general knowledge being unknown. LOI was TEES (I could not get the River Test out of my head, but couldn’t make it fit).
    When I started in the NHS there was still the distinction between SRN and SEN nurses, but forty years on it seems an odd piece of history to inflict on QC solvers.

    Thanks John and Orpheus.

    1. Setters are well known for hanging on to “handy” abbreviations that haven’t been used for decades: TT, TA, NUT, SA, NUR. Even though hundreds of new abbreviations are added every year, they don’t seem to appear. Lol.

  11. 14:09. But one typo.

    Was on for a great time but really slowed by WHISKERY, got stuck on sherry/shaggy and trying to make up words like the excellent “shaggery”.

  12. I found little to delay me here until left with my LOI, which needed half a minute of alpha-trawling.

    TIME 4:08

  13. Did most pretty quickly, breeze-blocked by QUIT until I put in a Q, when it jumped out at me. QUITE = entirely is never one that comes to my mind easily.

    Living in SW London, where there are many South Africans and therefore South African shops, I have had KUDU biltong before.

    I liked WHISKERY best.


  14. Quick until stuck in the NW but still home in 12 minutes.
    My last three were QUIT, SLOGAN and BUDGET. I was sure Move Fast =Run plus G; a clever misdirection and COD to that.
    I liked WHISKERY too.
    Not hard if you have crossword experience; the grid added a challenge.

  15. I found most of this straightforward taking only about seven minutes or so for all but two clues. At this point the wheels fell off and I expended a large amount of time before QUIT came to me and finally BUDGET. By this time the clock had moved onto 12.36, and it left me with a feeling of bewilderment that I hadn’t seen them earlier. I think part of the problem may have been my feeling that the U in 2dn may have been wrong, as I’ve never heard of KUDU. Some of the time was therefore taken in looking for an alternative solve to 7ac when none was necessary.
    Total time for the week was 42.43 (only four solves of course) giving an average of 10.41.

  16. Just under 10 minutes for this neat and enjoyable puzzle, which proves that a portcullis grid does not inevitably make for a tough solve. NW corner delayed me the most; I was well misled by Budget and like David1 I was convinced it started Run- until the G of Slogan appeared and scuppered that idea. Then LOI Quit took a word search and much longer than it should have. How we have ended up with the word Quite meaning both ‘completely’ (as in “quite right”) and ‘not completely’ (as in “quite good”) only an etymologist will be able to explain.

    Many thanks John for the blog and I look forward to the last Saturday Special of the year.

    1. Could you also get your etymologist to explain why Flammable and Inflammable mean the same thing ?

      1. So many people took the ‘in-‘ of ‘inflammable’ to be a negative prefix that ‘flammable’ was coined to replace it.

      2. OK, here is my collection of contronyms (words which may mean one thing, or equally its opposite): contemporary; cleave; give out; oversight; sanction; qualified; quite; rent; save; and screen (whose two meanings we had here just the other day). Then there are the words like flammable/inflammable (whose opposites mean the same): valuable/invaluable; caregiver/caretaker; restive/restless; pricey/priceless. Either enjoy, or make objections, or even add to the collection, as you prefer? Greetings to all.

  17. Gave up at 23mins having been unable to figure out BUDGET. Everything else done within 11-12mins so a dissatisfying end to a couple of successful holiday weeks where I’d previously had 8 sub-20s with the other being a 20:59 last Friday. Confirms that from next year I will be adopting a 20-min cutoff.

    Year end stats come in at 185/260 (71%)
    Good improvement on last year’s 112/239 (47%)

    Three setters – Izetti 11/24, Teazel 12/24, Orpheus 13/24 – were my main issue.
    The others came in at Hurley 19/24, Joker 19/24, Mara 18/24, Felix 11/16, Trelawney 11/13, Pedro 8/11, Oink 11/12 and Wurm 13/13.

    Timewise – 77 sub20s compared to last year only 14. Median time 24:21 compared to 45mins. Only spent over an hour on twelve grids this year albeit I also got better at quitting.

    I only started two years ago, stopped using aids in Feb 2022 which is when I started keeping stats. My message to anyone who is a beginner is there is hope if you’re willing to put in the effort and find ways to improve. Crosswording has never come easily to me.

    Happy New Year to everybody 👍

    1. Good progress – it’s great that you have measured where you were and where you are now. Hopefully things continue to improve over the next twelve months….

      Will you be taking the L-plates off now then?

      1. Thanks Mike – maybe it is time for a new identity if only so people can forget what a grumpy bugger I am when I’m struggling! My parents always told me I was a “bad loser” and they weren’t wrong there 🤣

        1. Well done, L-P! Mrs Random knows the solution to being “a bad loser”. Don’t lose. Simples!

    2. What a fantastic improvement – well done! Sadly my experience seems to be the reverse: there was a time (about nine months ago?) when I could hope to finish in 20-25 minutes, but recently I haven’t been able to do more than half the puzzle at all. Misery. (And no, it isn’t incipient dementia!) Very interesting to see your stats for each setter. Happy New Year to you.

      1. That’s a shame about your own experience Martinů.

        Perhaps you need a spreadsheet …

        … or if it’s that’s too technical, a nice handwritten log of your times!

      2. Snap!

        I’m getting progressively worse and now I dread the QC each day.

        I wish I could explain our experience but I am at a loss to understand how one can deteriorate despite gaining more experience.

  18. Stuck for a while in the NW, especially KUDU where I failed initially to follow the wordplay and tried instead to put in an x or y for ‘unknown’ and OZ/AUS for down under… Saw the error of my ways eventually and I was then able to solve FURLOUGH and BUDGET. Remembered discussion around QUIT from previous QC and blog so recognised it fairly quickly. Only know HARANGUE as a verb so DIATRIBE went in on trust. Have now checked and am duly convinced it can be a noun as well 😄 Old enough to remember SRN/SEN. Tricky in places but enjoyable. Many thanks John and Orpheus.

    1. It’s a grid that looks like a portcullis. Black squares alternating around the edges

      Rather than having 1ACROSS and 1DOWN giving lots of starter letters for the words that come off them, you get given the second letter of kUdu, bUdget, pInnacle, sTeM, sTar, qUit, fUrlough, wHiskery which makes them a little harder to figure out.

    2. It’s a grid where all the letters on the outside are unchecked. It is disliked by some as there is no help for the first letter of the downs starting at the top and the acrosses starting at the left. It is named after grille with the pointy ends that can be found in some castle gates.

  19. DNF. I gave up on this “QC”. I found many of the clues simply too difficult for me.

    Very unenjoyable and uninspiring.

    Can’t understand why people lament the layout of a grid. I’ll add it to my list of excuses for DNF/slow times. I have a number of them now. 🤣

  20. I found it quite gentle too. I didn’t know KUDU but it had to be. My only hold up, like others here, was LOI BUDGET which given I am in the process of filing my company accounts shouldn’t have caused such a delay. 7:02 for an excellent end to the QC year.

  21. 7:06

    With my Orpheus average around the nine-minute mark, I was very happy to keep it around 7 minutes though it did take me an age to spot QUIT before entering LOI BUDGET (failure to lift and separate).

    The next time we all meet will be 2024 so I wish you all (both solvers and setters) a very Happy New Year.

  22. 10:54, well outside my informal target. A remarkable chunk of time was taken up by failing to remember that if you see a _U, try a Q. I also didn’t parse SWEDEN until post-completion, thinking the day was just D then trying to justify SWEEN.

    No complaints, however – the KUDU was new to me but very fairly clued.

    Thanks both.

  23. Dnf…

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I thought that was brutally hard for the last QC of the year. I nearly got there (albeit over my 30 min mark), but just couldn’t see 2dn “Budget” and 11ac “Quit” – and the NW corner remained stubbornly blank for a significant period of time.

    FOI – 6dn “Star”
    LOI – dnf
    COD – 3dn “Pinnacle”

    A Happy New Year 🥳 to everyone who comments on here. I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and it’s always nice to see familiar names on a daily basis and see how they’re getting on.

    Thanks as usual and best wishes for 2024!

    1. thanks James, happy new year to you and all the other QC solvers.
      We should try and arrange a London spring/summer drinks get together for QCers.

    2. Definitely not a nice one to finish the year on but I get the sense Fridays are generally a little tougher. I can easily see I might have come a cropper on many of those clues especially whiskery, pinnacle, commando, sweden, cogent, stem. Budget seems to have been the one that most people finished with – if they did.

      Happy New Year to you – hoping you’ve kept that spreadsheet going!

      1. Thanks L-Plates. I will be updating it for my annual review next week and will let you know how it looks. Based on a few glances over the past few months, I know for a fact completion rates are declining.

    3. “…nice to see familiar names on a daily basis and see how they’re getting on”. Yes, I think that’s certainly one of the big pluses of the site.

  24. My first DNF for a very long time as could not see QUIT. I must remember to think Q before U. Otherwise no real problems, although BUDGET took longer than it should have done. Many thanks Orpheus and John, and to all the bloggers who definitely add value to the QCs. Happy new Year to all.

  25. 14′, like others, the NW corner taking most time. Silly not to see KUDU given the clueing but I just took the K which left me staring at BUDGET and SLOGAN for a while. Never heard of SAN for hospital after some 18mths of doing this and the 15×15; every day’s a schoolday and all that…Thanks John and setter

  26. I find myself in tune with those who found this tricky. I was doing ok until I had 2 left: 2d and 11a. The breakthrough came when I saw QUIT, but BUDGET still took a while as I’d been fixated on RUN for “move fast.” KUDU ranf a faint bell once the wordplayy had produced it. 12:21. Thanks Orpheus and John. Happy New Year to All 🥳

  27. Very pleased to finish in 26 minutes, which means I snuck under 2 hours for the week for only the second time ever. In fact, my aggregate time of 1 hr 53 mins is my best total.

    My FOI was KUDU, but as I had NHO the animal I wrote it in only faintly. My next success was ELBA right down in the SE corner, so I really thought I was in for a rough time at that point. The Downs were a little kinder though and I finished in the NW with FURLOUGH, SLOGAN, BUDGET and QUIT.

    Many thanks to Orpheus and John, and a happy new year to all.

    1. Well done on the sub2 Mr Random – best wishes to you and MrsR.

      PS The conkers are still on the staircase and there aren’t any spiders. So it must work 🤣

  28. As that was the last QC of 2023 I have spent a merry hour or so completing some stats. No-one else will be interested in the full details, of course, so I will spare you them, but both my average time (11.8 minutes, down from 12.2 last year) and the number of DNFs (25, down from 30) suggest that despite much comment at various stages of the year that the puzzles were getting harder, on average this isn’t actually the case.

    What I do detect though from the detailed stats is that the puzzles are getting more varied in their degree of difficulty (for the mathematical, while the mean of my times has fallen slightly, their standard deviation has increased), and that, looking at the data in a wholly unscientific way, there appear to have been three or four “runs” of several genuinely harder puzzles in a row. It may have been this that led to the general air of “the puzzles are not really QCs any more” that this blog reflected at various times in the year.

    That and the fact that no-one comments much when the puzzles are seen to be easy. Not a lot of comments saying “So easy it was certainly Q but barely C”!


    1. Well done on getting sub12 avg. – less than an hour per week!

      Your ‘greater variance theory’ sits well with my experience. August was a particularly good example where I had four of my top 6 fastest times ever, yet eight of the other 23 QCs took me over 40mins or ended in quitting. I recall Nov being similar.

      While I have my reservations about the Quitch showing what my idea of difficulty is, I’m beginning to feel confident that anything under 120 on it won’t be too traumatic.

  29. A nice finish to the year taking 40 minutes.
    This has been my first year of seriously doing the QC after dipping in last year.
    Out of 260 puzzles I completed 55%. I didn’t think I was improving much so was surprised that this breaks down to 43% in the first half and 67% in the second.
    I’m not working out average times yet but most take 30 to 60 minutes so I’m not fast.
    Can I wish a happy new year and give a big thank you to all the setters, bloggers, TFTT organisers and fellow solvers for your entertaining and erudite company in 2023. It has been a joy to find a new challenge and share it with such a fine group of people.

  30. Another sluggish 25min solve to round off the week/year. I may have to re-think my alcohol consumption. . . and just as I was trying to cut back. Nothing too difficult until the Quit Budget (next March) and Whiskery Scandinavian pairings that others have mentioned. CoD to 5d, Impala, which turned out to be more straightforward than seemed at first sight. Invariant

  31. Completed in 25 mins. A good time for me. 16d I entered ‘extend’. Still seems a good answer even tho’ wrong. Many thanks to all the bloggers and the posters. Happy New Year to all.

  32. DNF, but maybe I gave up too soon.
    Yes, many thanks to all the organisers and bloggers and a Happy New Year to all!

  33. Thought I was going to be sub 10 minutes but QUIT took me just over. A good one to end the year, thanks all.

  34. Tough grid if you have a first-letter dependency (🙋🏻‍♂️) plus a few chewy ones, especially SWEDEN (where I remembered four abbreviations for old nurses and got in a muddle) and LOI BUDGET, where I was looking for a variant of “audit”.

    Anyway, enough easy ones as well to come home in reggo 08:14 for 1.2K and Decent Day.

    Many thanks Orpheus and John.


  35. 24.12 BUDGET was a massive breezeblock taking more than half of the time. I only twigged to the correct parsing in the final minute and then I considered SURGET and LUNGET before the penny dropped. The rest of the puzzle was fine. Thanks John and Orpheus and Happy New Year to everyone!

    1. BUDGE for move came up in another crossword elsewhere recently so I didn’t have the same trouble with BUDGET that several have had.

  36. QUIT, BUDGET, COGENT and SLOGAN were my last in to the sound of several pennies dropping. Commando = amphibious? Really??
    Happy New Year to all fellow QC solvers.

  37. 1 hour, 5 mins of hell.

    An awful end to an awful year. How apt. I am absolutely nowhere with this. I cannot derive any pleasure from being so poor. For me, enjoying the solve means achieving a good time. Anything outside of this is simply not something I can take pleasure from. That’s just the way I am.

    My last five clues – SWEDEN, WHISKERY, QUIT, SLOGAN & BUDGET – took 50 minutes (!!!!), and then I read that it was gentle. I don’t disagree with that, but it makes my time even more humiliating.

    I am being left behind by many solvers who I could once match, and my times have just nosedived in the last 6 months. Every week has had at least one DNF or a horribly long time for the solve. This week is a perfect example:

    Tue – 16 mins
    Wed – 25 mins
    Thu – 25 mins
    Fri – 65 mins

    How does this happen?

    Once I begin to struggle, I lose all confidence and am no better than I was when I first began to solve without aids.
    Taking over an hour after being a solver for 3.5 years is awful. It’s a good job I don’t keep daily stats!

    Congratulations to those of you who have improved this year and thank you to those who have tendered advice.

    Thank you to the bloggers for their excellent work and best wishes to everyone for a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

    PS Bad day on Quintagram as well. I haven’t got the mental furniture that is required to do this properly. The harder I try, the worse I get. ☹️ I doubt things will improve.

    PPS Just seen on Snitch that today was easier than last 3 days. How on earth do I take as much time today as for last 3 days combined? Where am I going so wrong?

    1. But you finished it successfully? Which would be better than me.

      Wishing you well for next year. As stated above, I’m changing strategy to 20min cutoff to avoid frustrated last-clueitis or whatever. It will still be a little unsatisfying to have to quit but I reckon you’ve got to have a safety valve.

      1. Thanks L-Plates, but my time is shockingly bad.

        Best wishes to you for 2024. You have made excellent progress this year.

  38. 7.25

    V similar experience to John D – made v good progress but breezeblocked by QUIT (which fell reasonably swiftly) and BUDGET (which didnt notwithstanding liftage and separation). No complaints

    Thanks all and best wishes to everyone for 2024

    1. Good wishes for 2024! I enjoy this blog very much and feel I have got to know a whole new group of lovely people, though I don’t say much.
      I limit my time to around 20 minutes max so quite often I don’t finish, and I don’t record times – for me that’s not the point.

  39. Few solves in December thanks to some awkwardly timed meetings but took advantage of a latish train today to tackle this on my phone. Didn’t dare use the Club as I was on my phone – but the rest seems to have helped my brain, right first time in 9.46.

  40. I didn’t find this too difficult and finished in around 17 minutes. I don’t have a stopwatch, so I glance at the clock to give an approximate time.
    I rarely post as I solve late in the day and all relevant comments seem to have been made by then, though I’m here every QC day. My thanks to all the setters, bloggers and posters for making this such an interesting and friendly place. Best wishes to you all for 2024.

  41. Mostly OK but San for hospital and re for on are poor. Cogent and whiskery are unfriendly. Kudu also but at least obvious. Thanks for grid and blog.

  42. Off the pace today at 18:37 with the major holdups being POI BUDGET and LOI QUIT, nearly did!

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