Go Go Letter Power Rangers: A Puzzly Theme Song Contest!

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Every month, we play some sort of game with not only our fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, but with our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles as well.

Often, this takes the form of a hashtag game, mashing up the topic of the month with entries to Penny Press and Dell Magazines puzzles, titles, and so on.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, they’re punny costume ideas, or puzzly opening lines for novels, or attractions for a puzzle-fueled zoo!

This time around, we had a different challenge in mind: coming up with a puzzle-infused theme song for Penny Dell Puzzles!

And friends, they certainly did not disappoint.

So, without further ado, check out what these puzzlers came up with!


We start off today’s collection with some punny takes on classic TV theme songs!

I’ll Be Here & There For You

Love Is All Around the Block

Welcome Back, Kakuro

Where Everybody Knows Your Crypto-Names

Keep It Movin’ On Up / Movin’ On Ups and Downs

There’s No Places, Please Like Home

Split & Splice is Painless

Tossing & Turning and Scrambled Up

Three from Nine to Five

We’re the Chipsmunks

Nothing’s Gonna Stoplines Me Now


From this point forward, it’s not just titles, it’s puzzly lyrics as well!

Check out this brief yet delightful entry, to the tune of Britney Spears:

Oops I did it again
I wrote with a pen, got lost in the grid
Oh Penny, Penny
Oops you think I’m so lost
Switched Down with Across
I need a-nother hint


One intrepid puzzler pitched a nostalgic look at the puzzly past. This one is to the tune of “Those Were The Days” from “All In The Family.”

Boy, the way Word Seeks are made
The clever way that Tiles are laid
Solvers like us, we got it made
These are Word Games
And you know Say That Again
Even do ’em with a pen
Cryptograms can be done, even a page of KenKen
You don’t need no calculator
When you solve your Sudoku later
Gee, all our Fill-Ins look greater
These are Word Games!


I’ll let our next contributor handle their own introduction. Take it away, fellow puzzler!

You want a theme song?
Hold onto your wimple, Maria!
I’ve got your theme song right here:

♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪
How do you solve a puzzle like a crossword?
How do you fill a grid, across and down?
What’s a five-letter word that means “an earth tone”?
An ochre? An umber? A camel? A beige? A brown?

Many a thing you know you’d like to write there,
Many a clue you ought to understand.
A book that can make you think:
Use pencil or pen and ink!
How do you choose the best from your newsstand?

Oh, how do know you’ve got the tops in puzzles?
Penny Press made the book that’s in your hand!
♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪♫♪


Another marvelous entry was set to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and is known simply as… the Solver’s Theme:

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final clue
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll take my prize, of which I’m due
I’ve solved the puzzles full
Fraught with joy and dismay
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I penned each solve complete
Each careful letter along the way
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes, there were times, that Crypto-Zoo
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and finished Turnabout
I faced it all, and I stood tall
And did it my way

I’ve circled, I’ve erased and cried
I’ve had my Fill-Ins, Tossing and Turning
And now, as tears subside
I find that I am always learning
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh, no, oh, no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a solver, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say he finished Spinwheel
But sought help for Square Deal
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes, it was my way


Here’s a toe-tapping puzzly entry submitted to the tune of “867-5309”:

Penny, Penny has puzzles for you
Our magazines have a ton of fun clues
Sudoku, Word Seeks, and Crosswords galore
Your favorite puzzles, oh we’ve got them all!

Penny, you’ve got our number
When you need Three from Nine
Penny, just call our number

Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight

Penny, Penny has Puzzle Derby
Fill-Ins and Places, Please will make you so happy
Try out Double Trouble or Blockbuilders
Challenge your imagination with Exploraword

Penny, you’ve got our number
When you need Diamond Mine
Penny, just call our number

Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight
Eight, six, six, six, six, eight, eight

We’ve got it (We’ve got it) We’ve got it
Tiles, Place Your Number, and Quotefalls
We’ve got it (We’ve got it) We’ve got it
For a Good Time, for a Good Time call!


As a closer, here’s one the kids can enjoy, as one creative puzzler submitted a piece to the tune of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”:

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a COLORING BOOK here
and a COLORING BOOK there,
here a COLORING BOOK
there a COLORING BOOK
everywhere you see a COLORING BOOK

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a CROSSWORD here
and a CROSSWORD there,
here a CROSSWORD
there a CROSSWORD
everywhere you see a CROSSWORD

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a FILL-IN here
and a FILL-IN there,
here a FILL-IN
there a FILL-IN
everywhere you see a FILL-IN,

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a LOGIC here
and a LOGIC there,
here a LOGIC
there a LOGIC
everywhere you see a LOGIC,

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a VARIETY here
and a VARIETY there,
here a VARIETY
there a VARIETY
everywhere you see a VARIETY,

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a WORD SEEK here
and a WORD SEEK there,
here a WORD SEEK
there a WORD SEEK
everywhere you see a WORD SEEK,

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one
With a WORD SEEK here
and a WORD SEEK there,
here a WORD SEEK
there a WORD SEEK
everywhere you see a WORD SEEK,

a VARIETY here
and a VARIETY there,
here a VARIETY
there a VARIETY
everywhere you see a VARIETY,

a LOGIC here
and a LOGIC there,
here a LOGIC
there a LOGIC
everywhere you see a LOGIC,

a FILL-IN here
and a FILL-IN there,
here a FILL-IN,
there a FILL-IN
everywhere you see a FILL-IN,

a CROSSWORD here
and a CROSSWORD there,
here a CROSSWORD,
there a CROSSWORD
everywhere you see a CROSSWORD,

a COLORING BOOK here
and a COLORING BOOK there,
here a COLORING BOOK
there a COLORING BOOK
everywhere you see a COLORING BOOK …

Penny Pub makes puzzles fun,
oh lets go do one


Did you have a favorite Penny Dell Puzzly Theme Song, fellow puzzlers? Or an idea of your own? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!

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Birdbrains Are Starting to Look Pretty Good Right Now…

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve no doubt noticed that one of our favorite topics is puzzle-solving animals. In the past, we’ve discussed examples of puzzle solving in catsdogscrowscockatoosoctopuses, bees, pigs, and squirrels.

You probably noticed we’ve got two types of birds on that list already. The more we learn about birds, the more they add to their puzzly resumes.

For instance, did you know that sulphur-crested cockatoo parrots in Australia are teaching each other how to open trash bin lids in order to grab snacks. It’s not all that different from the birds that raided milk containers in Britain a century ago. Many birds learned quickly from their more clever brethren.

As for crows, they’re probably the puzzly kings of birddom.

There was a famous study about a crow named Betty, who would bend pieces of wire in order to obtain food.

Originally, Betty was treated as a genius, only for scientists to later discover that many other crows also have a penchant for making tools and figuring out innovative solutions to problems.

The story of Betty no doubt inspired another study, which tested both the puzzle solving wits and social skills of crows.

There were two crows gathered from different locations with no discernable previous connection. On a table, the scientists placed two pieces of wire — a hooked piece of wire and a straight piece of wire. Each crow had a bottle with meat inside. The crows could see each other, but each had to solve the problem separately. Each crow grabbed one of the two wires.

There are differing accounts of this study, and I couldn’t track down the original. Some say the straight wire was the only way to get the food out, others the hooked wire.

[Image courtesy of Royal Society Publishing.]

In the end, the result was the same. During the first test, only one crow could get the food.

Scientists ran the test a second time, expecting the crows to fight for the one wire that allowed the victor to acquire their food.

And yes, both crows went for the same wire.

But not as competitors.

One held the wire in place, the other bent it. They cooperated, without language, so that both could get food.

That is some solid puzzly thinking.

Factor in other studies about crow cooperation (crooperation?) and stories from Japan about crows building decoy nests to distract patrols intended to remove their real nests from city power grids, and you start to wonder whether crows will join Dr. Fill at the next edition of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve heard some stories about puzzle-solving raccoons that I need to follow up on. The menagerie of puzzly animals just grows and grows.

Have you heard any stories about clever creatures that belong on the list of puzzle-solving animals, fellow puzzlers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you


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Too Topical? Too Safe? Too Family Friendly? — What Belongs in Crosswords?

Building a great crossword is a balancing act.

Your grid entries need to be interesting, yet accessible. You need to navigate long crossings and tight corners without resorting to too many abbreviations, too much crosswordese, or creating the dreaded Natick, a crossing of two obscure entries. Some solvers don’t like partial phrases, others don’t like proper names or brand names.

Your cluing has to be clever but not impenetrable. How much wordplay is too much? How many fill-in-the-blank clues before your clue section resembles your grid? The cluing must be fresh and vibrant yet timeless and not too of-its-era to make the cut for reprint and collection later.

No matter how you clue it, older solvers may decry newer names, slang, terminology, or pop culture references, while younger solvers will bemoan not just older references they consider passe, but long-established crossword-friendly words they quickly tire of seeing.

And that’s all without considering the difficulty in creating engaging, interesting themes or gimmicks for the puzzle.

Man, it’s amazing crosswords get made at all.

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[Image courtesy of Mike Peters and The Comic Strips.]

That question of fresh entries and cluing vs. older/more familiar fare is a curious one. It raises further questions.

For instance, how much can you talk about what’s going on in the world?

By referring to unpleasant topics, however topical, will you alienate solvers who use the crossword as an escape? Or do you risk the puzzle feeling too sanitized and safe by NOT acknowledging the circumstances of the world at the time of the puzzle’s publication?

There are arguments for both sides. I mean, who wants to see ADOLF in a grid? (But then again, it’s not like IDI AMIN has a hard time finding his way into grid fill.)

farrar

Margaret Farrar believed that crosswords should avoid “death, disease, war and taxes.” Purposely avoiding unpleasant fill and cluing is informally known as the “Sunday Morning Breakfast Test.” (Our friends at Penny Press know plenty about this, as they shy away from unpleasant entries with diligence.)

But on the flip side, to ignore the unpleasantness of the world potentially ignores the people that unpleasantness affects.

As we continue to push for greater representation in crosswords in both editorial staff and constructors, you cannot deny that including the experiences of women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community somewhat necessitates facing those unpleasant aspects of our history and our society.

To exclude them is to exclude potentially thought-provoking and important fill and cluing. (One could easily argue that the vast majority of our own Eyes Open crosswords would not pass the Sunday Morning Breakfast Test.)

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[Image courtesy of Charmy’s Army.]

Not everyone greets adding new cultural fill with open arms, of course. A few years ago, an LA Times crossword solver complained to us (on our holiday gift guide post, of all places) about “ignorant ghetto language” in the crossword. He referred specifically to innocuous entries like “sup,” “did,” and “street cred.”

Thankfully, he is an outlier.

But on the topic of excluding words from crosswords, when Will Shortz was asked about it, he had an interesting response:

If a word or term is used in the columns of The Times, or in cultured society in general, I think it’s probably O.K. for a crossword, even if it’s touchy or slightly unpleasant. I strive to have crosswords reflect real life as much as possible. … I don’t believe in banning words, except for the very worst. And I’d be happy to abolish the term ‘breakfast test’ completely.

breafkast

I think this is a topic I’m going to ask crossword solvers about more often. I’d be curious to see where they stand on crossword content and topicality.

I suspect opinions will vary, but I also suspect that most solvers welcome new fill, new entries, and new references in clues. Every crossword is an opportunity to learn and expand one’s knowledge, and add to the mental lexicon of crossword knowledge we each build as we solve.

So where do you stand, fellow puzzlers? Do you prefer your crosswords as an escape or as a puzzly reflection of the world around us? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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The Boswords Crossword Tournament Returns This Weekend!

boswords2021

Yes, fellow puzzlers, it’s tournament time again!

This Sunday, July 25th, from 1 PM to 6 PM Eastern, the Boswords Crossword Tournament returns! The fifth edition of this event will be contested online for the second year in a row, so it’s the perfect opportunity to test your puzzly skills.

If you haven’t signed up yet, registration closes tomorrow at 5 PM Eastern.

With two divisions to choose from — Individual and Pairs — puzzlers of all ages and experience levels are welcome to enjoy some challenging and clever crosswords in a day of puzzly fun and camaraderie.

Tournament organizers Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb (along with talented puzzle editor Brad Wilber) have gathered a diabolical Ocean’s Eleven-style crew of terrific constructors for this year’s puzzles. The five themed puzzles in regular competition (as well as the championship themeless final) will be constructed by Malaika Handa, Andrew Kingsley, Chandi Deitmer, Wyna Liu, Hoang-Kim Vu, Rob Gonsalves, and Jennifer Lim!

Boswords is asking for $25 for adults, $35 for pairs, and $5 for students to (virtually) attend and compete, which is a real bargain! (Also, for anyone with financial difficulties, there is a discounted rate available.)

If you want to solve the puzzles at your leisure and outside of the competitive setting, it’ll only cost you $10 for the puzzle packet, which you’ll receive Monday by email.

To check out the full details of this year’s event, click here! (And for our rundown of last year’s tournament puzzles, click here!)

Will you be attending the Boswords tournament, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.


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Puzzles in Pop Culture: TV Escape Rooms!

sidequest2

[Image courtesy of Yelp.]

It’s always interesting when TV shows incorporate puzzles into their stories. Not only do we get to see what Hollywood (and by extrapolation, the general public) thinks about a given puzzly experience, but we learn more about the characters when they face a particular puzzle or challenge.

This is especially true for sitcoms and comedies, since they usually have less time to focus on the puzzling and therefore put the spotlight on character relationships.

And it occurred to me that there are a number of different shows over the last few years that have featured the characters in escape room-style puzzle settings.

Why don’t we take a look at how accurately these puzzly experiences were portrayed, how difficult the room appeared to be, and what the characters’ solving skills were like?

Please enjoy as we explore fictional escape rooms from TV in our latest edition of Puzzles in Pop Culture!

big bang theory pic

[Image courtesy of IMDb.]

For our first offering, we turn to the CBS juggernaut The Big Bang Theory. Over the years, TBBT has featured puzzly activities like giant Jenga, a holiday-fueled session of Dungeons & Dragons, and a scavenger hunt with puzzly clues.

So I wasn’t surprised that their take on escape rooms was the same: fairly accurate, but simplified and streamlined for a mainstream audience.

The room in TBBT is pretty spacious, moreso than pretty much any escape room I’ve seen. But the level of detail is easily something achievable for high-end rooms. Also, I’ve heard about escape rooms with actors playing zombies before, so this is legit.

(In fact, one I heard about in Washington D.C. had a zombie on a chain; the chain got longer the more time solvers took to crack puzzles, cutting the room in half at one point!)

We don’t get to see much of their solving, as they allude to puzzles conquered instead of showing us, so it’s hard to gauge difficulty. But given that most of the characters featured in the scene hold doctorates, we can safely assume the puzzles were middle-of-the-road or slightly harder.

However, the episode ignores the fact that you’re trying to escape the room in a certain amount of time. The characters seemed disappointed by their impressive performance, but they probably posted one of the top times in that room’s history. Nothing to sneeze at.

  • Accuracy rating: 4/5
  • Room difficulty: 3/5
  • Character solving skills: 5/5

[Image courtesy of FOX.com.]

Another show that hasn’t shied away from puzzly content is the former FOX and current NBC hit Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This comedy/drama set at a New York City police precinct has featured a seesaw brain teaser, a crossword-fueled arson mystery, and several multilayered heist storylines set around Halloween.

Puzzle enthusiast Captain Holt invites his fellow officers out to an escape room, and is dismayed when the disinterested Gina and the bumbling Hitchcock and Scully end up being his only fellow players. The group is immediately hampered by Hitchcock wasting two of their three hints, and Holt accidentally wasting the third.

The hint system is usually not as rigid in escape rooms. Three hints is common, though many places allow you to ask for more; sometimes there’s a time penalty, sometimes not. Also, the room in B99 is a three-hour challenge, which was a surprise. The standard time is an hour, though I’ve seen rooms push it to ninety minutes.

The group has also clearly not tried the classic escape room method of “touch everything,” because an hour and a half into the game, having found only one of the four keys needed to escape the room, Holt has not yet investigated the bright red phone sitting out in the open.

This is another escape room where difficulty is tough to judge. Unfortunately, we’re not given enough details on the first key (which involves some sort of chess puzzle) and the fourth key to really gauge the room. But despite the rocky start, the lovable team of misfits manages to escape.

  • Accuracy rating: 3/5
  • Room difficulty: 2/5
  • Character solving skills: Holt gets a 3.5/5, everyone else gets a 2/5.

always-sunny

[Image courtesy of Variety.]

Next, let’s turn our eyes to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

The characters in this darkly comedic show all consider themselves devious masterminds, but for the most part, they tend to get in each others’ way and foil their own schemes through silly self-sabotage. Although a few impressive schemes do come to fruition over the years, it’s hard to consider this group a crackerjack team of puzzle solvers.

This escape room breaks the mold quite a bit, since the company brings the escape room trappings to the apartment of two of the characters. This is much more elaborate than any escape room set you can buy for the home, and I don’t know of any companies that deliver an escape room to the house.

You might think this home field advantage would be a boon, but instead, all chance of cooperation immediately goes out the window. One pair takes the key to a lock, the other pair takes the lock, and they spend the entire time negotiating instead of solving.

iasip

[Image courtesy of IMDb. Because of the language involved, I couldn’t
use an actual video clip and keep the blog post family friendly.]

Once they actually agree to collaborate and open the lock, they discover a list of tasks for them to complete, and they have virtually no time left to do so. (Our only hint to the room’s difficulty comes from the fact that Dee has completed the room beforehand, so it can’t have been too difficult.)

They claim victory when Sweet Dee falls out a window after getting trapped in her brother Dennis’s bedroom. In order to check on Dee’s status, the game runner opens the door and the remaining players consider it a win.

  • Accuracy rating: 1/5
  • Room difficulty: 2/5
  • Character solving skills: 0/5

crazyex_s01a-1170x658

[Image courtesy of Frame Rated.]

The final entry in our comedic quartet of escape room episodes comes from the musical CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. This romantic drama, comedy, and coming-of-age story often features characters breaking out into elaborate song and dance routines, and many of the songs have become modern classics.

The show didn’t tackle puzzly content often, and indeed, the escape room in question is a b-plot in this particular episode, as main character Rebecca offers her escape room experience to friend Paula and her two disinterested sons.

The escape room is medieval-themed and huge, with lots of great set pieces and detail. The mix of exploring, touching things, solving puzzles, cooperating, and placing objects in particular places are all very traditional escape room moments.

ceg escape

[Image courtesy of Laura E. Hall.]

Though I was a little disappointed that the elements of the final puzzle are sitting out in plain sight the whole time. You could easily ACCIDENTALLY solve the last puzzle first and be out in minutes.

But Paula’s sons prove to be able puzzlers, attentive and clever, revealing things about themselves that Paula didn’t know. (In fact, the entire escape room subplot is all about Paula learning about who her sons have become, which is Puzzly Storytelling in Sitcoms 101.)

They all escape, having found new common ground, and it’s easily the most delightful ending of the four escape room scenarios we’ve looked at today.

  • Accuracy rating: 4/5
  • Room difficulty: 3/5 (the final puzzle is a long anagram, which is pretty tough, but the rest of the room is easy)
  • Character solving skills: 4/5

What did you think of this look at escape rooms from TV, fellow puzzlers? Should we look at more fictional escape rooms and see how they hold up?

I’ve heard Bob’s Burgers has one, as well as Schitt’s Creek. Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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Tie Yourself in Knots With Rope Puzzles!

rope puzzle rings

What comes to mind when you think of a mechanical brain teaser? Do you think of a puzzle box or linked metal shapes? Do you think of wooden pieces that need to be fitted together to form a particular shape, or the twists and turns of a Rubik’s Cube or sword puzzle?

I would wager that rope isn’t the first puzzle piece that you think of. Which is surprising, because rope is part of plenty of different brain teasers. And they date back further than you’d think.

the seal on king tut's tomb

Check out this tricky tangled knot. This mix of rope and clay guarded the tomb of King Tut for centuries. Experts in rope and knot-tying have identified many of the knots involved, and claim that there’s no way to remove the rope and open the doors without breaking the clay seal depicting Anubis, the jackal-headed god entrusted with the protection of the dead.

Although it’s rare to find rope puzzles like this guarding tombs these days, they still guard other treasures. Like this wine bottle for instance.

GP333A_Wine_Wooden_Puzzle_1x1px-01_1024x1024

This brain teaser serves as a fun (or annoying) way to add a little flavor to a traditional housewarming or holiday gift.

It’s just one example of a wide array of mechanical brain teasers known as disentanglement puzzles.

rope puzzles

These puzzles rely on careful manipulation to make seemingly impossible actions — like passing a rope with a wooden ball attached through a hole too small for the ball — quite simple with clever maneuvering.

And whereas other tangle puzzles that are all metal or all wood are great and offering different challenges, the addition of a rope or two can add a TON of variability and new options to a puzzle. Pieces slide along it, and the rope can be twisted, rolled, or threaded between pieces. This one element triples the possibilities.

screen-0

As you might expect, rope puzzling has also made the leap to mobile apps.

Games like Tangle Master stick to the disentanglement theme, demanding you untie a number of ropes in a certain number of moves. Later complications include locked ropes you can’t move until other ropes are eliminated, and even bombs that countdown to force certain moves.

Cut the Rope offered a different challenge, requiring solvers to deliver a candy to the waiting mouth of a hungry pet by cutting the rope. Along the way, you’d try to collect stars. The game was a mix of strategy and timing, and I can remember more than a few friends obsessed with this app a long while back.

Where could rope puzzles go from here? Anywhere, really, as long as puzzly minds are out there to try out new ideas.

There are videos online of creative geocaches/letterboxes involving string or rope. I’ve seen them employed in escape room puzzles — once to decode a message, another time to trace a connect-the-dots pattern on a board of nails, and elsewhere to connect two distant objects and hold them in place — and I’m sure that’s not the last I’ve seen of ropes there.

Do any of your favorite puzzles or puzzle apps involve ropes, fellow PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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