This is the crossword puzzle thread

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I have been meaning to make this thread for a few weeks now, since Jordan and I have been derailing the Chicago thread lately with commentary about the Ben Tausig's Ink Well crossword (syndicated in a variety of alt-weeklies) and the Onion AV Club crossword, which Tausig edits. You can find both here.

Additionally, I have been constructing my own crosswords, which I've put up on Flickr. I just spent most of my weekend working on my first puzzle to utilize five theme fills (previous puzzles used only three theme fills or else were themeless).

Feel free to discuss the NYT puzzle, too. I wanted a thread broader than this one, but since that's the premier puzzle in the U.S., it surely belongs here, too. (I have to admit that I don't actually do the NYT one, but that has a lot to do with the fact that you have to pay to do it online.)

Anyway, go forth and tell me about your frequent encounters with "Sea eagle" or "Actress Skye."

jaymc, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:32 (fourteen years ago) link

Recently I picked up a copy of the Oregonian in order to do the NYTimes puzzle and I kept it aside for weeks and then finally did it -- it was a Wednesday puzzle and I had a few minutes to spare -- and it was all Latin themed clues, which was nice, and was almost enough to make be believe that divine providence had caused me to hang on to it, almost.

Also while cleaning up I found the enormous bag of old GAMES magazines from the 80s that my friend gave me and which I have yet to explore. Rah!

The difficult part about crossword making is the clues, of course...

Casuistry, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:43 (fourteen years ago) link

it was a Wednesday puzzle and I had a few minutes to spare -- and it was all Latin themed clues, which was nice

omg ysi?

anatol_merklich, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:50 (fourteen years ago) link

Yes and no. I mean, it takes me several hours to create the fills and usually I'm so relieved to be done that I can rush through the clues in mere minutes. But it's a challenge to make really good clues, ones that will make the difference between an easy and a (more interesting) difficult puzzle. For instance, I like to put a lot of pop-culture references in my puzzles, but a lot of times these are hard to create ambiguous clues for; some end up just being fill-in-the-blanks.

jaymc, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:54 (fourteen years ago) link

(xpost)

jaymc, Monday, 24 December 2007 03:54 (fourteen years ago) link

Re: YSI: Oh uh I did it and then recycled it. It might still be in my recycle bin though. But it'll have the answers.

Casuistry, Monday, 24 December 2007 04:01 (fourteen years ago) link

Har, no worries Casuistry. Are we talking about cryptics or non- here btw?

anatol_merklich, Monday, 24 December 2007 04:04 (fourteen years ago) link

Cryptic thread is another one, mostly UK posters, but jaymc and Casuistry show up too.

James Redd and the Blecchs, Monday, 24 December 2007 04:10 (fourteen years ago) link

i can do ny times up through wednesday 80-90% of the time with a fair amount of ease, thursday closer to 50-60% (usually with some help), friday almost never, and i dont think ive ever finished a saturday ny times x-word

max, Monday, 24 December 2007 04:15 (fourteen years ago) link

Oh. I have. Either I get hopeless stuck on a Saturday (30% of the time?) or it takes about 45 minutes. Or, it did when I was doing them all the time.

Casuistry, Monday, 24 December 2007 06:31 (fourteen years ago) link

last week's sunday ny times crossword i did in less than an hour (this is not usually the case for me).

i cannot, under any circumstances, ever finish a cryptic crossword

impudent harlot, Monday, 24 December 2007 06:37 (fourteen years ago) link

New crossword from me.

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 16:25 (fourteen years ago) link

Haha "what johns do."

The school clue is super-great, too!

I was momentarily thrown by two spellings not conforming to the way the NYT would render them -- and then in both cases yours seems more Korrect, and theirs seems more of the variEnt.

nabisco, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:43 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm pretty sure I know one of the two you mean. Is this the other? Because I think that's always spelled like that, even though a word that contains that word has a NYT-preferred variant.

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:51 (fourteen years ago) link

Nope, two different ones -- 9 across and 48 across.

nabisco, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:53 (fourteen years ago) link

And actually, funny though it may be, I'm kind of annoyed with "what johns do," just because it's a bit of a stretch, even for a Tausig-type puzzle. Really hard to work with five theme fills, though!

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:53 (fourteen years ago) link

Nope, two different ones -- 9 across and 48 across.

Ah! I had originally used the variant for 48-A until I looked it up in Wikipedia and saw that that was a common mistake.

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:54 (fourteen years ago) link

my pops schooled me on that holiday sunday NYT puzzle. :(

i got ben tausig's book and i'm about halfway through it, although his cluing seems to have gotten harder as he went along.

Jordan, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:55 (fourteen years ago) link

I think you can get away with one giant stretch per puzzle, so long as it's , you know, funny.

nabisco, Thursday, 27 December 2007 19:56 (fourteen years ago) link

Try to be a little sneakier with the clues, maybe? "When Romeo dies" -- the present tense gives that one away far too quickly. Make it past tense, so there's at least a chance that I'll panic for a moment trying to figure out if we know the year -- or, better, "Where Romeo died", and I might think you're going for "GENOA" and realize that won't fit and wonder if I am misremembering the story -- or, maybe even better, for a good Thursdayish clue, find some other character who dies in a similar place, but whose name does not immediately ring of Shakespeare, and I'll be mystified for a while, but it will eventually come to me. Because it's that sort of strip-tease, right?

"What johns do" is nicely phrased for sure, though.

Casuistry, Thursday, 27 December 2007 20:13 (fourteen years ago) link

That's a fair point, Chris. My thought process for that clue was basically, "I need something that happens there ... Oh, well, obviously: Romeo dies ... Is that too easy? ... What happens in Othello? ... *reads Wikipedia article about Othello* ... yeah, not really feeling that ... I should probably be working right now ... All right, 'When Romeo dies.'"

jaymc, Thursday, 27 December 2007 20:35 (fourteen years ago) link

That's sort of what I meant about the clues being the hard part. But you saw the movie, right? How Will Shortz basically rewrites half the clues for the puzzles he accepts?

Anyway I'm not trying to discourage you, of course. I just want more awesome crosswords to do.

Casuistry, Thursday, 27 December 2007 23:58 (fourteen years ago) link

Speaking of Tausig puzzles: the numbering of the clues in the Onion one this week (the sports issue) is completely off!

nabisco, Saturday, 29 December 2007 22:37 (fourteen years ago) link

Haha, rly? It was correct online.

Jordan, Saturday, 29 December 2007 23:06 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, it's bad enough that 1/3 of the down clues are sometimes randomly deleted; this time I was like, "Yeah, that's not gonna work."

jaymc, Saturday, 29 December 2007 23:17 (fourteen years ago) link

Another new one. Title is exactly the same as Ben Tausig's Ink Well puzzle last week but with a different interpretation.

jaymc, Monday, 31 December 2007 17:32 (fourteen years ago) link

I think this is your hardest one yet, for sure.

Jordan, Monday, 31 December 2007 19:28 (fourteen years ago) link

Good!

jaymc, Monday, 31 December 2007 19:35 (fourteen years ago) link

Do you have .puz files?

Casuistry, Monday, 31 December 2007 20:15 (fourteen years ago) link

Wow, jaymc, that last one is really good.

I used to want to make my own crosswords, and looked for books on how to construct them, but never could find any. Are there such things, or do you just get in there and figure it out?

Rock Hardy, Monday, 31 December 2007 20:45 (fourteen years ago) link

Most books about crossword puzzles seem to have an obligatory section on making them, I think. I read Eugene T. Maleska's book, and boy was he proud of the awful crosswordese he used to drill into his puzzles, but I'm pretty sure it had a chapter on making puzzles.

Casuistry, Monday, 31 December 2007 20:53 (fourteen years ago) link

No, I don't have .puz files. I need to look into that. Also crossword constructors are always talking about a software program called Across Lite?

And thanks, Rock. I just sort of figured it out through trial and error. All you really need to know is the basic rules for what the grid needs to look like: no words shorter than three letters, diagonal symmetry. But any good software (like Crossword Weaver, which I use) will help you make sure you don't do anything irregular.

When I started out doing themeless puzzles, I would just start at the top-right and work my way around the puzzle intuitively. With themed puzzles, I do the theme fills first and then work outward from the middle.

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 15:57 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm still a little wtf over this Tausig one from the other day (I'm working through his book). The clue is "Good Buddy" and the answer is "CBER". I assume it's CB radio, but still doesn't quite make sense to me?

Jordan, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:04 (fourteen years ago) link

cockblocker?

Jordan, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:04 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm guessing that someone who uses CB radio is a CBer, in the same way that Tausig uses the clue "Recipient of 'You've got mail' message" for AOLER.

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:06 (fourteen years ago) link

just "CBer," as in one who does CB? seems ok to me

xpost dang it

n/a, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:06 (fourteen years ago) link

http://www.filmaffinity.com/imgs/movies/full/31/317347.jpg

James Redd and the Blecchs, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:08 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah guys, I know that CBer is one who does CB, but how do you get that from "good buddy"?

Jordan, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:18 (fourteen years ago) link

that is CB slang, they say stuff like "ten-four, good buddy."

n/a, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:21 (fourteen years ago) link

http://www.impawards.com/1977/posters/smokey_and_the_bandit.jpg

n/a, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:21 (fourteen years ago) link

Across Lite is the program that you use to enjoy .puz files, and you can get it from the NYTimes website, and they distribute their puzzles to online subscribers in that format. Someone you know might have a year's worth of such .puz files, but he has perhaps already worked through them all.

Casuistry, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:50 (fourteen years ago) link

Also, you're supposed to have no more than [a certain number] of black squares if you hope to get published by the big-leagues, and certain black-square formations are frowned upon (full 90 degree right angles -- basically anything Tetris-y).

Casuistry, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:52 (fourteen years ago) link

I think it's 17% black squares, or 40 squares in a 15x15 puzzle. Though Tausig had one that was 46 recently.

certain black-square formations are frowned upon (full 90 degree right angles -- basically anything Tetris-y).

I didn't know this.

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 16:57 (fourteen years ago) link

I'm not sure it's as hard-and-fast a rule as the percentage one, but on those rare occasions when I see such a puzzle, I'm always a little startled by it. I dunno, I should flip through one of my NYTimes books to make sure I'm not fooling myself about it.

Diagramless puzzles, of course, are all about that.

Casuistry, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 17:00 (fourteen years ago) link

http://www.cruciverb.com/index.php/articles/htmlpages/120

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 17:01 (fourteen years ago) link

A++ for "Paris's friend," Jaymc -- actually took me a while, with excellent payoff

nabisco, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:09 (fourteen years ago) link

Total pro-level theme on that one, too!

nabisco, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:09 (fourteen years ago) link

Ha, I sort of wrote that one with you in mind, N!

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:10 (fourteen years ago) link

The "Paris's friend" clue, I mean.

jaymc, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:10 (fourteen years ago) link

I had to look that one up after I got the answer, I don't watch that show.

Jordan, Wednesday, 2 January 2008 19:13 (fourteen years ago) link

Hah I guess I wasn't saying much there. I think he's definitely a sour curmudgeon a lot but for today's he gets to why I didn't like the puzzle: the NW felt capricious and ungenerous. I'm fine with ambiguity and misdirection but that corner was so arbitrary and willfully obscured with little payoff.

Carnegie Felon (Leee), Saturday, 30 April 2022 19:56 (three weeks ago) link

xps I am indeed the Tas Matt - switched accounts to shake my work email, but just discovered my iPad was logged in as the old user so have been posting as matthewk too. and yes, being a non-American I absolutely hated the Saturday puzzle.

assert (matttkkkk), Saturday, 30 April 2022 21:09 (three weeks ago) link

it’s saturday and one expects hard cluing but yeah, 1A is just fucking with ppl

mookieproof, Saturday, 30 April 2022 22:10 (three weeks ago) link

Oh yeah, took me forever to get that right.

Eric B. Mash Up the Resident (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 30 April 2022 22:38 (three weeks ago) link

By the way, there's a major kerfuffle today because NYT messed up the coding on an otherwise very nice puzzle.

I (and many others) struggled with getting the website to recognize that it had been solved correctly. Some people gave up in frustration and broke streaks by using check, only to discover that they had not made any mistakes, it just was picky about what it would accept, and it wasn't consistent platform to platform. IPad and iPhone users reported different results from Android and PC users; ultimately switching browsers worked for me but it took an extra 20 minutes of trial and error.

What sux is that I actually really liked the gimmick! Just poor technical execution made it frustrating. Anyway try hyphens, spaces, Xes, the word "nothing," the word "blank," and the letters from the phrase SPACE OUT, surely one of those strategies will work for you.

Fifty Centaur (Ye Mad Puffin), Sunday, 1 May 2022 14:00 (three weeks ago) link

Yes, I discussed this last night elsewhere.

Eric B. Mash Up the Resident (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 1 May 2022 15:13 (three weeks ago) link

The Wordplay comments are on FIRE.

Fifty Centaur (Ye Mad Puffin), Sunday, 1 May 2022 15:41 (three weeks ago) link

Hyphens worked for me on the iPhone app. I don’t have much of a streak going so didn’t really mind today’s but can see how it might annoy others. It was quite a nice, breezy Sunday puzzle I thought.

Roz, Sunday, 1 May 2022 15:47 (three weeks ago) link

Usually when I’ve got everything right but it’s telling me I’m wrong it’s because my fat fingers have mistyped so yeah I combed a few times before I realised there must be a glitch & googled

gop on ya gingrich (wins), Sunday, 1 May 2022 15:48 (three weeks ago) link

Based on my knowledge of the, um, addictive nature of gamification and streaks I can only imagine how upset people are.

Wile E. Is President (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 1 May 2022 15:50 (three weeks ago) link

tbh if you have a significant streak you should know better

the gimmick was obvious enough, and so was the fact that the app(s) might be touchy about it

mookieproof, Sunday, 1 May 2022 15:59 (three weeks ago) link

I’m quite new to this, finally gave in & got the sub to do the spelling bee thing & started doing this despite not really getting on with us style xwords previously - I still on the whole find them less satisfying/interesting than uk cryptics but there are moments of inspiration that wouldn’t be possible with the latter, the worst thing tho is that the lack of black squares means that the same answers have to come up over and over again

The relative easiness also makes it dangerously addictive (I’ve done 15 daily puzzles since I joined but 69 total, you can just blast through the archive) and echoing recent posts the existence of “stats” and timing is toxic

gop on ya gingrich (wins), Sunday, 1 May 2022 16:01 (three weeks ago) link

One of these days I'm going to take another whack at cryptics, but the learning curve seems pretty steep for a newcomer.

Anyway, I solved today's on Android and had no trouble getting it to accept it, so my streak never felt threatened (lol feeling called out).

Human-shaped trash bag (Leee), Sunday, 1 May 2022 18:27 (three weeks ago) link

I think this is the best possible time to get into US/Canadian cryptics, as they play a bit fairer than UK ones, and you can get 5/6 new ones a week from various publications. There are also a lot of how-to/training guides popping up on both blogs (see https://toughasnails.net/2022/01/01/announcing-the-oneth-of-the-month-mini-cryptic/) and publications (see The Browser, The New Yorker, AVCX, and others). I've been doing one a day for this whole year and it's been very satisfying.

Hard to believe NYT with all of their resources can't figure out how to make an online puzzle with the tiniest of variety elements work. This isn't the first time a gimmick like this has gone wrong. Indie creators have figured out how to make digital versions of acrostics, spirals, marching bands, and other variety types. You would think NYT could at hire them or at least copy their work.

Michael F Gill, Sunday, 1 May 2022 20:16 (three weeks ago) link

The received wisdom on UK cryptics at least is that they are very specific to the setters - you'll need a month of one setter to really settle in, but it won't help you much with others - is that less the case in the US?

Andrew Farrell, Monday, 2 May 2022 09:31 (two weeks ago) link

There is some small variance among US setters, but mainly the vocabulary and references of their cryptics are familiar to people who do US Crosswords.

With UK cryptics, the best advice seems to be British. Or, have a desire to learn about British locales, slang, and abbreviations that seem a bit crusty/outdated at times. UK cryptics rarely (if ever) have living people or current events in their clues, but they do go far into the Chambers dictionary to find words like SPATCHCOCK or OTOLITH. I have to be in the mood for the challenge, but it’s a bit of a steep climb to get there.

Michael F Gill, Monday, 2 May 2022 13:03 (two weeks ago) link

OTM

Wile E. Is President (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 2 May 2022 13:10 (two weeks ago) link

The received wisdom on UK cryptics at least is that they are very specific to the setters - you'll need a month of one setter to really settle in, but it won't help you much with others - is that less the case in the US?


I don’t think I’ve encountered this received wisdom but it feels way off to me! Setters have their own cluing styles but the differences are not that drastic ime, if you’ve learned the basic conventions you’ll get on ok with any - “very specific” is a big overstatement

It’s v true about the frame of reference - fucking cricket slang! - I am generally a fan of the slightly quaint (but not completely alien to a UKer who reads) terms like “non-u” or whatever but I would like to see a bit more of a balance with contemporary stuff (which is far from unheard of, at least in the guardian: the nyt “Has online?” felt to me like something the graun setter Paul would come up with)

Of course it’s also true that you need to know a lot of US locales, slang & abbreviations to do a US xword; the difference I suppose is that the more straightforward cluing means that I can just go straight to wiki when it’s some American sports person or garbage food brand

(I also like the going-into-chambers stuff and will note that SPATCHCOCK does not scan as particularly obscure here!)

gop on ya gingrich (wins), Monday, 2 May 2022 14:34 (two weeks ago) link

I don’t mind the vocabulary hunt at times, and there are definitely some inventive ways of clueing/punning in UK puzzles. Feels like only recently though that the average US solver now knows that cryptics are a thing, and might want to do them. Although that is a bit of speculation on my part.

Michael F Gill, Monday, 2 May 2022 17:30 (two weeks ago) link

Just remembered that I started doing cryptics with a Telegraph (?) How To Solve Cryptics I bought at Heathrow. I then kept going with the variety cryptics in Harper’s and the Atlantic and would still try to do UK cryptics on and off for various spells but ultimately didn’t really feel it was worth it for me.

Wile E. Is President (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 2 May 2022 18:36 (two weeks ago) link

Today’s puzzle I liked

Wile E. Is President (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 May 2022 11:59 (two weeks ago) link

i did too, so i’ll give it a pass for 45D

mookieproof, Thursday, 5 May 2022 19:16 (two weeks ago) link

Ha, yes, exactly.

Johnny Thunderwords (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 5 May 2022 19:36 (two weeks ago) link

Hah, and the 45A cross.

Human-shaped trash bag (Leee), Thursday, 5 May 2022 20:07 (two weeks ago) link

Solved it, don’t know how I feel about it. I was on the verge of annoyance at times but overall an enjoyable experience I guess. 32D had me going for a bit, I had something else there for the longest time.

Johnny Thunderwords (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 7 May 2022 11:03 (two weeks ago) link

I had two different things in for 28D MARRIAGES and then MATERIALS - not being sure how to spell 34D didn't help

Andrew Farrell, Saturday, 7 May 2022 12:09 (two weeks ago) link

struggled a bit with that middle section (never heard of DEJAGER or HUGUENOT, also had INDIA instead of NEPAL for the longest time) but overall I quite liked it. faster fill than usual for a Saturday even with the hiccups.

Roz, Saturday, 7 May 2022 15:51 (two weeks ago) link

easiest sunday ever

mookieproof, Saturday, 7 May 2022 22:49 (two weeks ago) link

Yeah, another record!

Andrew Farrell, Sunday, 8 May 2022 00:50 (two weeks ago) link

can will shortz fit every possible spelling variation of a certain egyptian god into a single week? perhaps

mookieproof, Tuesday, 10 May 2022 02:36 (one week ago) link

You’re talking about AMONUPDO?

Don't Renege On (Our Dub) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 11:05 (one week ago) link

Should have said AMENRA to that.

Don't Renege On (Our Dub) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 14:31 (one week ago) link

That's my favorite type of noodles

may the florist be with you (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 22:16 (one week ago) link

Lol!

Don't Renege On (Our Dub) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 22:26 (one week ago) link

Rejected crosswordese screenname: AMEN UPDO.

Don't Renege On (Our Dub) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 10 May 2022 22:27 (one week ago) link

So some of the time restrictions for doing a puzzle that counts towards your streak have definitely been relaxed -- I *just* finished Wednesday's and it's showing up as gold.

Santa Barbarous (Leee), Thursday, 12 May 2022 17:28 (one week ago) link

Were there time restrictions? Didn't know. Oh, day of or something maybe.

Don't Renege On (Our Dub) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 12 May 2022 17:47 (one week ago) link

I think it matters whether you start the next one.

Like, if it's Thursday morning and I forgot to do Wednesday, I can still do it and get gold... as long as I don't start Thursday until Wednesday is done.

That's how I understand it anyway.

That said, if I ever get too precious about this, please kick me in the groinal region and remind me that it's a voluntary leisure activity that is also basically meaningless. Thxbye

may the florist be with you (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 12 May 2022 20:23 (one week ago) link

People getting precious about their streak is kind of half the business model for the NYT xword

Michael F Gill, Thursday, 12 May 2022 21:13 (one week ago) link

Or is it?

Don't Renege On (Our Dub) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 12 May 2022 22:41 (one week ago) link

xxp and wordle too! they're playing on peoples' OCD tendencies

I know a lot of people don't do numbers but it's nice that the sudoku isn't like that

Dan S, Thursday, 12 May 2022 22:45 (one week ago) link

I’d say the “cracking the cryptic” sudoku fans can get pretty obsessive/dedicated. The speed solvers at Logic puzzle tournament are pretty incredible, although these events also seems to be accompanied with nerdy endless arguments about things like bifurcation, uniqueness, and if the cognitive load of the solving path is too heavy.

I do love Nikoli-style logic puzzles in general though.

Michael F Gill, Thursday, 12 May 2022 22:59 (one week ago) link

Okay, Sunday 5D made me smile.

Don't Renege On (Our Dub) (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 14 May 2022 23:03 (one week ago) link

easiest Wednesday ever

assert (matttkkkk), Wednesday, 18 May 2022 11:48 (four days ago) link

Streak is now at 365, and I kind of hate myself for caring that much.

Pteredactle (Leee), Friday, 20 May 2022 18:05 (two days ago) link

Ray Stevens to thread! Or not.

Groovy Situation Vacant (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 20 May 2022 18:22 (two days ago) link

Leee, I also got to 365 recently and had the same ambivalence - simultaneously "yay me" and "who gives a fuck."

Doris Day and the Time (Ye Mad Puffin), Saturday, 21 May 2022 03:30 (yesterday) link

Anyway, today’s puzzle…took me a while but I enjoyed, I think.

Apollo and the Aqueducts (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 21 May 2022 12:51 (yesterday) link

same, was a fun one! really liked the clue-ing on this

Roz, Saturday, 21 May 2022 13:26 (yesterday) link


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