Onetime Dr Pepper rival / MON 1-1-18 / Some canadian petroleum deposits / Trammps torch song / Letter shaped girders

Monday, January 1, 2018

Constructor: Matthew Sewell

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (for a Monday ... it's over-sized, so maybe it's just Medium)


THEME: "torch songs" — famous song titles that in some way involve "fire" are clued as "torch songs" ...

Theme answers:
  • "BLAZE OF GLORY" (17A: Jon Bon Jovi torch song?)
  • "BURNING LOVE" (29A: Elvis Presley torch song?)
  • "ETERNAL FLAME" (36A: Bangles torch song?)
  • "LIGHT MY FIRE" (45A: The Doors torch song?)
  • "DISCO INFERNO" (59A: The Trammps torch song?) 
Word of the Day: "Inside LLEWYN Davis" (39D: "Inside ___ Davis" (Coen brothers film)) —
Inside Llewyn Davis /ˈluː.ɪn deɪvɪs/ is a 2013 American black comedy-drama film written, directed, produced, and edited by Joel and Ethan Coen. Set in 1961, the film follows one week in the life of Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac in his breakthrough role, a folk singer struggling to achieve musical success while keeping his life in order. It co-stars Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, and Justin Timberlake. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a solid idea. The "torch song" thing, with its winky little "?" clues, is cute. Nice play on the word "torch." This set of themers feels awfully loose—a bunch of nouns that are rough synonyms for "fire" (incl. "fire" itself) and then the adjectival outlier "burning." Also, the Trammps!? I mean, everyone knows the song "DISCO INFERNO," but the Trammps? Despite knowing the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack like the back of my hand, I had no idea who the Trammps were. All the other musical acts are phenomenally famous, so once again, we have an outlier themer. But it's Monday, and the theme is probably tight *enough*, and certainly the song "DISCO INFERNO" is iconic *enough*, so OK. If you sat on this theme for a bit, you could probably eventually come up with a better set of answers—maybe a set that doesn't force you to go 16 wide with your grid?—but who knows? Not great, but good enough.


There is a problem, though, with grid construction. Those NE / SW corners are ridiculously enormous, which make the puzzle a. slightly tougher than a Monday should be, and b. slightly rougher (fill-wise) than a Monday should be. HAR / ENE / STD—that's the dregs at the bottom of your BELEAGUERED SW corner. In the opposite corner, ICE CAVE is "???" and GAGSTER is almost literally painful. Grid construction is tough business, and this grid has resulted in a certain level of unfortunateness. Things I would try desperately to cut from my own grids: ONLOAN, AAAA, PFC, HAR, ENE, IBEAMS, OYS, DHL, OMS, ICECAVE, GAGSTER, SHH, ANAT. Also OIL SANDS, but mostly just 'cause I barely know what those are. That answer definitely made this harder. But OIL SANDS isn't bad per se. The other stuff, OK, maybe I couldn't ultimately kill off all of it, but seriously, it should Eat At You, when there's that much crud in your grid. Publishing stuff like this just encourages constructorial complacency. Oh, and LLEWYN ... I'm calling foul there, too. I get that that was a fairly major movie, but good lord, Welsh, forget about it. In my head I heard "Loo ell ynn" and so ... yeah, that was all just crosses. In short—fine theme, not a good enough reason to go 16 wide, grid oddly built, which encouraged more junk fill than anyone wants to see. OK. So, first puzzle of 2018 gets a low pass. Coulda been worse!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS crossing INFERNO and INFER? No. 

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

127 comments:

Paul Rippey 12:51 AM  

Inside Llewyn Davis was a great movie - my favorite of the year- and passed over by the Oscars. The Oscars are like The NY Times crosswords: important because people think they are important.

Anonymous 1:04 AM  

I wrote this several minutes ago at the end of the "comments" section of the Sunday puzzle, where there had been some discussion of the lousy compensation of puzzle constructors for the NY Times. Let me paste my remarks here, since I think few are still looking at last Sunday. Happy New Year! Pasted remarks follow:

Re: compensation of puzzle-makers. In looking at how much NY Times puzzles earn, one should consider first of all the massive amounts of money made by selling rather inexpensive books of puzzles, in bookstores and, I imagine, in places like newsstands and pharmacies. I receive printed sales’ publications of books reduced in price, due mainly or exclusively to overprinting (mostly junk, but some very good books). I have been struck by how many are puzzle books by Will Shortz. Even if these are “failures,” sort of, due to too many print copies, their great number convince me that these puzzles must be making millions of dollars. I’m not sure the NY Times can be shamed into offering more money for puzzle-makers–perhaps they can be shamed a little. But capitalism by its very nature wants to keep salaries low, and we all (in this New Year, 39 minutes into it, as I right), need to take a closer look at capitalism itself.

Perhaps some startups have at times attempted to have employees share in the bounty. Olivetti, I believe, a century ago decided that employees should be paid at least 10% of what the highest management got. But these are outliers: capitalist enterprises thrive by low salaries (a main aspect of “good management”), and if “progressive economists” want to argue that higher salaries mean better work and more loyal employees, let them. But these “progressives” really are reactionaries–the only real solution is to look at the capitalistic system itself.

If Shortz ever retires, he or she seeking his position may be reading this, and he or she should look above all at control over “residuals,” copyright earnings from republication of puzzles in cheap-paper form. (I’m not in the running, by the way: I’m not interested or qualified.) I know that Shortz powwowed with CUS, the author, whom I have met, of an extremely popular puzzle in Germany. (CUS is the nom de plume of Curt Schilling [sp. ??].) Whether CUS taught Shortz or Shortz taught CUS I do not know: but I do know that they agreed that the real financial consideration was over “auxiliary” rights–rights to republication and normal copyrights. Thus if the NYTimes offers you an annual salary of $150,000, don’t hold out for $180,000–no, demand that you have the earnings when the puzzles are republished.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

the redanman 1:23 AM  

LLEWYN kept me at subsonic speed

Happy New Year

chefwen 2:06 AM  

I saw two bbs in a row, two ees in a row and now two lls in a row and I thought, where Did I go wrong. Never heard of INSIDE OF LLEWYN DAVIS, now I’ll have to watch it. Got through it, but not without trepidation. Offered up a challenge on a Monday, loved it.

Anonymous 2:09 AM  

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say OILSANDS. Threw me off for a minute because I assumed the answer was TAR SANDS.

Anonymous 4:53 AM  

I’m not sure that the Trammps are quite the outlier OFL would suggest. Sure they aren't household name material, who of the genre is? But I’d argue that there’s more or at least a comparable amount of distance on the fame scale between the Bangles and Presley than between the former and the Trammps. Thought the review was surprisingly charitable in other respects.

'mericans in Paris 5:31 AM  

Happy New Year, all!

I enjoyed this first, 13.7% larger Monday puzzle of the year. I think we should give the constructor some latitude for using the word "torch" to describe songs with some reference to blazes, flames, etc. Never heard of a song called "BURN IN GLOVE", however. (HAR!)

By the way, CALAMARI is an anagram for CLAM MARIA.

Regarding the comment by @Anonymous 2:09 AM about OILSANDS vs tarSANDS, that's a topic I'm all too familiar with.

Basically, for years, tar SANDS -- technically, bituminous SANDS -- were known by that name for decades. Then the Canadian oil industry and its government supporters decided that "tar" didn't sound so environmentally friendly, and started calling them OIL SANDS. Not only that, but they started to insist that everybody else (e.g., inter-governmental agencies) call them that as well. But the name change does not change the fact that extracting oil from bituminous sands is a very dirty, energy-intensive process.

For a more complete description (and a great pair of photos), see the article here.

The story of Canada's bituminous sands, and the present Canadian federal government's -- especially Justin Trudeu's -- ambivalence over them, is typical of the cognitive dissonance that many oil-producing developed countries are having to struggle with nowadays. Countries like Canada, New Zealand, and Norway, are vocal champions on addressing emissions of greenhouse gases, especially from the combustion of fossil fuels. And most of them charge high domestic taxes on those fuels. But at the same time they take the attitude that any oil or natural gas left in the ground is wasted treasure, so continue to encourage exploration and development. And, of course, the more they succeed in reducing their own domestic consumption of the fuels, the more they have available to export.

Here's the depressing fact (at least for those concerned with climate change): At the end of the day, it doesn't matter very much what individual countries do to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels; what matters is how much carbon is extracted from the ground and combusted somewhere in the world.

Frank Birthdaycake 5:37 AM  

I liked it. Sure, it could have been better, but just about everything seems more difficult and annoying than usual on New Year’s Day. A Bloody Mary would have taken the edge off some of the fill. By contrast, yesterday’s puzzle was a whole-pitcher affair. Best wishes to all for a happy and healthy 2018.

keleng 5:52 AM  

felt Tuesday-ish to me, difficulty wise. Good theme though.

Lewis 5:53 AM  

New idea for a theme, I believe, a feat that's tough to accomplish, and brings great credit to the constructor. I liked the answers BELEAGUERED and MRPIBB, as well as FAT near SUET, INFER crossing INFER, and LOIN crossing LIGHTMYFIRE. The sound track to "Inside LLEWYN Davis", IMO, is very very good, worth a listen!

ADONAI crossing BLAZE OF GLORY gave me an image of the Burning Bush. And I found the heat-related theme comforting on what is a bitter cold day here.

Loren Muse Smith 6:16 AM  

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE is a 16.

I wasn’t familiar with the expression “torch song.” Makes sense. a sad or sentimental song, typically about unrequited love. I guess that’s about 98% of all the songs out there. Send in the Clowns and Total Eclipse of the Heart always get me.

Funny to have INFER crossing INFER. (Morning, @Lewis) Hey you purists – dictionaries have given up the good fight and now list as its 4th meaning

4 : suggest, hint Are you inferring I'm incompetent?

[And while I’m at it, Merriam Webster has added /nyü-kyə-lər/ as an alternative pronunciation of nuclear. Well – it says it’s non-standard, but still. This pleases me enormously. I’m listening to another Great Courses tape on anthropology and get this – the professor says /nyü-kyə-lər/ when talking about power, bombs, blah blah but this same man pronounces it /nü-klē-ər/ when talking about a family unit. How cool is that? I guess I’m inferring that the word nuclear is spawning a little secondary version of itself.]

Nice crosses – POSER/MAKES NO SENSE. Hi, John Cage.
FIRE in the LOIN (You scooped me again, @Lewis)
OATBAR stuck right there in the CRAW.
BELEAGUERED crossing STD. Oops. Pesky rash.

Best juxtaposition – ICE sharing the grid with all these songs. Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe…

Best wrong parsing – BURNIN’ GLOVE. At the campfire? Just use a stick next time to reposition a log? Ok?

Best misread clue – 1D – “Unruly thong.” Weird mental picture.

@Nancy – I tried, tried, tried to join Deb Amlen on Wordplay. You’re right – she’s great. Funny, quick, smart. And the community there is full of engaging, insightful, interesting people (who all think, by the way, that we’re the spawn of the devil over here. Most won’t even mention Rex’s name). But you’re right – the system for posting a comment is just prohibitively cumbersome. Unless you have a ton of spare time to track things down, it’s almost impossible to follow a thread. I gave up.

And I happily sent a donation to Rex last night. We don’t see eye to eye, but I always read his take on the puzzle and am grateful for the enormous amount of time he puts in to furnish this little home, nest of vipers that we are.

Happy 2018. May your thongs never be unruly.

Anonymous 7:44 AM  

Today is “medium-challenging “for a Monday””Yesterday was just “Medium”. Not sure why that bugs me so much.

chefbea 7:45 AM  

Couldn't figure out what the theme was...didnt realize they were about fire!!!

And today is the first Monday of the month...Where is Anabel???

Going to make hoppin John today... and collards!!!

JOHN X 7:47 AM  

This puzzle was fine, but If you want a tough but fair puzzle and have access to the NYT archives, I just did the January 25, 1994 puzzle and wow. And it's a Tuesday! It would rate as a Friday nowadays.

Happy New Year!

QuasiMojo 8:19 AM  

I don't know what the equivalent of "Torch Song Trilogy" would be for something with FIVE entries. Oh, wait, PENTALOGY. Although I found this note on Google that one of the books in the Hitchhiker Guide's series had this tag line: "The fifth book in the trilogy".

Fun, frisky Monday poser. I would have been more impressed if it hadn't repeated "torch song" in the clue for each themer. That seemed like overkill. A Bonfire of the Vanities. Not a bad start to a New Year. Btw, what's wrong with ICE CAVE and GAGSTER, Rex? I liked those. Better than Bat Cave or Hipster, fo sho.

Jamie C 8:26 AM  

From yesterday:
clue: What would Lionel Richie say after committing a terrible crime?
A: Hell, is it me you're looking for?

Charles Flaster 8:32 AM  

Easy and I knew the Traamps !
BELEAGUERED was well clued and my favorite response.
Lots of glue but still a nice puzzle.
Thanks MS

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

When did Mr. Pibb cease to be a Dr. Pepper rival? Still for sale at stores and restaurants.

You know what isn't for sale anywhere? An AAAA battery.

This one was slow for me, and I don't even really know why, but 2018 starts of with a dud.

Andrew M 9:09 AM  

It ceased to be "Mr Pibb" in 2001, which is now 17 years ago. It has been "Pibb Xtra" ever since.

Aketi 9:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Child 9:17 AM  

What an excellent puzzle! Some weak fill for sure, but a fun conceit and crunchy for Monday.

https://www.walmart.com/search/?query=aaaa%20batteries&typeahead=aaaa%20b
https://www.walgreens.com/q/aaaa+batteries
https://www.cvs.com/shop/duracell-ultra-alkaline-aaaa-battery-2ct-prodid-1010911?skuId=278679
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_4?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=aaaa+batteries&sprefix=AAaa%2Caps%2C1961&crid=6POYIE2UXYDD

Outside The Box 9:18 AM  

Liked beleaguered and piquant. Some intelligent answers for a change! Good puzzle.

Mohair Sam 9:19 AM  

A fine Monday, played a little tough here - but we're hung over from the pain of watching the Eagles game yesterday.

OILSHALE before OILSANDS, anybody else? MRPIBB was hideous stuff. Didn't know the Tramps, but a couple of letters gave you DISCOINFERNO, not obscure at all. PIQUANT's a Wednesday word at least, but doesn't it have a great sound?

A favorite from "Othello":
"I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice. Then must you speak
Of one that lov'd not WISELY but too well;"

@Loren - We have a songwriter in common. The song that "gets" you, Bonny Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was written Jim Steinman He also wrote Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light", a song which brings tears to my eyes for sure.

Sharon Ballan 9:21 AM  

Gagster???? That threw me and ruined the puzzle. Otherwise ok.

Aketi 9:28 AM  

@LMS, my husband is remaking my cappuccino after I sent back the first one due to residual dish soap, otherwise I would have ended up with coffee all over myself after reading your New Years wish. The only thongs I ever wear are the ones that I wear on my feet.

I like LOVE crossing PALOMA.

Not only does INFER cross INFER, OAT crosses OAT. I think the gluten free crowd might argue that OATs aren’t healthy for them in any form. The problem with the BAR form is all the added sugar. Nevertheless, since I like gluten and my body doesn’t object to it, I think I’ll have some for breakfast. I started thinking about breakfast OATs yesterday with what looked like a scattering of Cheerios across the puzzle. Some appeared to find the Os cheerier than others.

The ICE CAVE may put a chill in the BURNING LOVE, but the OIL may sustain the ETERNAL FLAME above and help LIGHT the FIRE below. Plus the FIR should also provide fuel for the FIRE.

Our normal cat ABETS our FAT CAT’s overeating by meowing for more food and then watching him eat it without taking a bite herself.

So wondering what this FIRE/ICE puzzle predicts for the last season of Game of Thrones? Will the FIRE prevail over ICE and peace and LOVE prevail in the end?

rosebud 9:28 AM  

I loved it! As soon as I saw Doors torch song I knew it would be fun...missed Great Balls of Fire by Johnny Cash. And I also loved Inside Llewyn Davis, so lots of favorites in this one.

Two Ponies 9:38 AM  

@ LMS,
I had the same thought for 1D. I hate it when my underwear gets sassy and needs a good spanking.

Chant seems a tad loud and forceful for Om.

I had fun listening to the theme songs in my head as I solved. Some of the short fill was a yawn but beleaguered made me forgive it all.

People love to make fun of disco and rightly so but it sure was fun.

Nest of vipers!

Nancy 9:39 AM  

Good puzzle, very interesting comments so far. Fun theme, not much junk, and some enjoyable non-Mondayish fill like BELEAGUERED and PIQUANT. Agree with the poster above, though -- I thought there was no battery smaller than an AAA. And is AQUA always "pale"? Can't there be a deep AQUA hue? Or does that make it turquoise?

I didn't know any of the songs as clued, but that didn't hold me back. To paraphrase Mencken's famous quote: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public", I would say: "No pop songwriter ever went broke choosing a title that even a second-grader can understand." So, BLAZE of what? What do you think? BURNING what? Surely not BURNING STOVE. ETERNAL what? Probably not CITY. The one surprising title here was DISCO INFERNO. Now that's interesting and surprising.

Very surprised, @Loren, that you've never heard the term torch song. But, yes, "Send in the Clowns" is a dead-on perfect example. Though others may disagree, I prefer to skip past pop songs and reserve the term for the classic American Songbook -- "The Man That Got Away," "Losing My Mind", "One for My Baby" (yes, a man can sing a torch song too, and if you've never heard Sinatra sing it, you've missed something haunting and indelible); "Stormy Weather"; "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered". I just love torch songs, and therefore I thought the theme of the puzzle was pretty nifty.

evil doug 9:41 AM  

Loren: BURNIN GLOVE is what my proctologist is left wearing after tangling with my 'roid rage flare-up...

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Where's Anabel?

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Pick-up line from a lumberjack? Hey, honey. How ‘bout we stroll through the FIR and balsam!”

Anonymous 9:51 AM  

Yep, count me in for TARSANDS. Refineries had to do big overhauls to their existing facilities to refine the muck into something usable and not pump too much more poison into environment while doing so.

Mark 9:58 AM  

To go back to Sunday’s discussion, I think the Sunday puzzles are in a rut because they don’t know what they want to be, how hard, how clever etc. It may be that their target audience isn’t those of us who do a puzzle everyday, but instead those who want a relatively straightforward weekend pastime. I have somewhat accepted that this is the way they are, but I still find them the weekly puzzle I look forward too least.

Birchbark 9:59 AM  

PIQUANT, yet BELEAGUERED AT THAT.

Where one person spies poor fill, another might see Coleridge:

I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! Those CAVEs of ICE!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Aketi 10:00 AM  

@Nancy, back in the days when my son wanted electronic toys as gifts during the holiday season any number of those toys required the dreaded, harder to find, quadruple A batteries.

GILL I. 10:15 AM  

My all-time favorite Torch Song is Barbra Streisand's "One Less Bell To Answer." When she gets to the one less egg to fry, I start crying. I'd never be able to look at a fried egg again. What a sad memory.
But, what a SWEET Monday with all the fires going up all around us. BLAZE BURNING FLAME INFERNO! Bring it on...I love a Monday with oomph and words like PIQUANT.
Speaking of torch songs, Madama Butterfly has the saddest of the sad torch songs. These Italian operas always end in death by beautiful or sick women. Suicide, consumption...take your pick. And, they never die quietly or quickly. Their deaths are agonizingly looooong.
ADONAI is another fine word. To me, it sounds a bit Italian - like ti adore.
Well, Mathew Sewell, this was one fine Monday for our first 2018. FIRES!

Tara Pitts 10:20 AM  

For those of us dinosaurs who still solve with a pen, can we talk about the awkward placement on the page? Right slap on the middle crease to the right instead of the lower corners? No. Just NO.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

@Rex fans. EEEEK. Y'all be some crazy ass sum bitches.
Happy New Year and I hope one day you will find a way to enjoy life.

puzzlehoarder 10:33 AM  

This was a little harder than average. I was unfamiliar with some of the song titles. Adding in some write overs like ASWELL/ATTHAT and YOUDIG/YOUSEE plus needing crosses to spell LLEWYN and PALOMA lead to several minutes of extra solve time.

Happy New Year to all again.

Jeff 10:40 AM  

YES! I had the same quibble! How am I supposed to neatly refold the Arts section and reassemble the paper for the missus with this ill-placed crease?! Hopefully this was a one-off.

JC66 10:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Michael 10:48 AM  

"Coulda been worse." HAR. Today's Rex review is a good example of his need to find something to complain about. And the millennium rolls on.

Thought this was one of the better Mondays I've seen. Fun theme, crunchy fill, and not a lot of drek. (Gagster? What gagster?)

Theme made me think of Harvey Fierstein's play "Torch Song Trilogy," but I like @Quasi's idea of renaming it here as "Torch Song Pentology." Interesting how many songs use fire as a metaphor. And then there's Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Nice to see some colorful grid entries like BELEAGUERED (a vowel fest), OIL SANDS, PALOMA, PIQUANT, and CUZCO. This is far from a brainless Monday and a bright way to start 2018.

JC66 10:50 AM  

Was a big fan of Dave Van Ronk back in the day. Saw him perform many, many times at the Gaslight (Dylan, too). But even though the Coen movie was a semi-biographical take on his time in the Village and named after his great album "Inside Dave Van Ronk," like @Rex I had a tough time spelling LLEWYN.

Yaffa Fuchs 10:56 AM  

Way too challenging for monday!

Malsdemare 11:05 AM  

My grandson and two daughters hiked the Mendenhall Glacier two years ago and got to explore an amazing ICECAVE. The photos are to die for. I know that just because I got ICECAVE doesn't make it a Monday answer, but I sure enjoyed remembering that experience.

I liked the puzzle — don't I always? — but can see that it might be tough if a Monday is supposed to be a good entry level puzzle. Loved BELEAGUERED, OILSANDS (Rex, how is this something you barely know? Because the oil is of such poor quality, environmentalists talk about them a lot), PIQUANT, MRPIBB, ADONAI, CALAMARI. Fun stuff.

@'mericans "Here's the depressing fact (at least for those concerned with climate change): At the end of the day, it doesn't matter very much what individual countries do to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels; what matters is how much carbon is extracted from the ground and combusted somewhere in the world." Well said.

@Gill. Yes! One less bell to answer, but the one by the Fifth Dimension's Marilyn McCoo. My mom was a pianist, and she loved playing those classic songs (along with the stuff that serious pianists play). I have an okay voice, and singing along with torch songs, whether pop or the classics, is a favorite pasttime.

Happy New Year, all. Let the good times roll.

Teedmn 11:12 AM  

I was faintly BELEAGUERED by my lack of the E after the U in that word, and being less than sure about CUZCO but otherwise this puzzle filled right in and I didn't even know ETERNAL FLAME or what "torch" song the Trammps might have played.

PIQUANT for a Monday and the first day of the year. Thanks, Matthew Sewell.

Fountains of Golden Fluids 11:20 AM  

Does anyone remember Annabel?

Stanley Hudson 11:27 AM  

@Rosebud, I believe Jerry Lee Lewis did “Great Balls of Fire,” not Johnny Cash.

One of the funniest things I ever saw on TV was a cover of “Great Balls of Fire” by Tiny Tim.

Buggy Bunny 11:33 AM  

'mericans in Paris:
"Here's the depressing fact (at least for those concerned with climate change): At the end of the day, it doesn't matter very much what individual countries do to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels; what matters is how much carbon is extracted from the ground and combusted somewhere in the world."

OILSANDS, tar sands, shale oil whatever you call it, the immediate threat is to water supply. put any of those terms and 'water use' into your favourite search engine and read up on the issue. avoid, of course, any site with 'oilsands' in its URL. of course.

mathgent 11:44 AM  

Nice puzzle, especially for Monday.

@Gill I.: I love One Less Bell to Answer, too. I didn't know that Barbra Streisand did it. According to Wikipedia, Bert Bachrach and Hal David wrote it for Keely Smith (who died a few weeks ago). Nothing happened with it until The Fifth Dimension put it into an album which became a big hit. Streisand did it as a part of a medley in one of her albums.

Amy 11:48 AM  

Still one of my faster Mondays since Llewyn Davis was a gimme! An excellent if depressing film. Plus all the songs were super-famous. Very fun!

jb129 11:52 AM  

This was so easy that I thought I had it wrong & there was a rebus somewhere - but it was just easy & a delight! Thank you Matthew & Happy New Year everyone!

kitshef 11:53 AM  


@Rosebud - you may be thinking of "Ring of Fire" for Johnny Cash?

Set an odd kind of personal record for longest ever across-only solve. Had all but the NW and SE corners in reasonable time, then took more for those two corners than the rest of the puzzle.

On a visit to an ICE CAVE in Austria, I suffered the indignity of setting my own pants on fire – and not noticing until someone else pointed it out (I was dressed in layers).

Warren Howie Hughes 11:55 AM  

MARCO well my words, my fellow Rexy followers, You're INFER a treat on this chilly Monday morn, as this was by far the most challenging Xword POSER I ever put my ink pen to! in fact, IBEAMS as follows :-) :-) :-) Let's keep the home Fires burning during this nation-wide cold spell!

Lewis 12:02 PM  

My five favorite clues from last week:

1. Containing a spoiler, say (6)
2. What some performers saw in Las Vegas? (12)
3. Pole vault units? (6)
4. Loss prevention association? (8)
5. Blade runner? (3)



SPORTY
LADIES IN HALF
ZLOTYS
MNEMONIC
FAN

Warren Howie Hughes 12:04 PM  

I dare say, Crossword Constructor Sewell did so well to kick off the New Year in the Grey Lady...Kudos!

EdFromHackensack 12:05 PM  

The definitive version of One Less Bell to Answer was sung by Marilyn McCoo, of the 5th Dimension. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. First thing I did was fill in all the songs. I was waiting for I'm on Fire by Bruce Springsteen. Great puzzle, harder than most Mondays.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

I also balked at the idea of AQUA being inherently pale—or even typically or usually pale. I think of it as being a rather vibrant shade. Is the term saturated?

Reminded there was a time when flip-flops were always thongs.

GHarris 12:17 PM  

Y'all want torch songs, take a listen to Patsy Cline.

Barbara Hohenberg 12:17 PM  

First day of a new year. Am encouraged by actually finishing the puzzle, only one mistake. Good augury for the remaining Mondays of 2018? Maybe will eventually find Fridays easy? That would light my fire.

Masked and Anonymous 12:45 PM  

Happy Newy HAR!

"HOT STUFF" ?

Thanx, Mr. Sewell, for startin us out with a primo 2018 MonPuz. Has all the crucial points covered:
* Good music-related theme. Turns up the heat, pronto. M&A has 2 of em on 45 rpm vinyl. One more on LP vinyl. Not much OPERA, tho.
* Five U's. Slightly above-average respect, for the Rodney Dangerfield of vowels.
* AAAA. Tasty ow de speration entry.
* Weeject stacks in (count em) all four gridcorners. staff weeject pick: HAR.
* Some great long-balls: CALAMARI. MAKESNOSENSE. PIQUANT. GAGSTER. PTBOAT. FATCAT.
* "Inside LLEWYN Davis" flick ref. This was one weird flick. Weird was good, IM&AO.
* Feistiness. Just enough in there to make m&e work the crosses a little bit. (yo, @OILSANDS)

Anonymous at 1:04AM may be onto somethin … a lotta real good & prolific constructioneers probably strike out on their own, so they can retain the copy rights to their puzs. That's why I kinda like Fireball … they pay $1 more than the NYT, plus send U out a free book if yer puz is in it. That's good enough, for the likes of m&e. [M&A has the ultra-rich exclusive-like rights to zillions of runtpuzs, so is set for life. (HAR)]

@muse: Glad that WordPlay Blog was too cumbersome.

Masked & Anonymo5Us

Hartley70 12:57 PM  

I gave a sigh at the first few across entries because they seemed so obvious. MOAT, really? But I perked up considerably when I saw the theme and realized that LIGHTMYFIRE, was the only gimme in the bunch for me. Even when the crosses gave me the answers I still went "huh?". I guess I need to hear the tunes. In any case, I was delighted with the challenge on a Monday.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

OIL SANDS was weird for me, because I think of "tar sands" -- is there a difference, in location or viscosity?

'mericans in Paris 1:04 PM  

@Anonymous 12:57 PM -- see my comment at 05:31 AM. Basically, the difference is one of public relations. The Canadian oil industry and the Canadian governments (Federal and Albertan) call them "oil sands", whereas most of the rest of the world call them "tar sands".

@Buggy Bunny -- Yes, I'm aware of the threat to water caused by mining the stuff, which is why I wrote "extracting oil from bituminous sands is a very dirty, energy-intensive process. But thanks for reminding us of that specific detail.

Barbara Gross 1:37 PM  

I sure hope the size of this puzzle isn't going to be the norm for the new year. For those of us who still do the paper version, it was impossible to fold it the way it usually folds. Very frustrating to me. I still can't get used to the Sunday puzzle, which can no longer be folded in half. I guess I'm stuck in the past and don't like change.

Barbara Gross 1:37 PM  

I sure hope the size of this puzzle isn't going to be the norm for the new year. For those of us who still do the paper version, it was impossible to fold it the way it usually folds. Very frustrating to me. I still can't get used to the Sunday puzzle, which can no longer be folded in half. I guess I'm stuck in the past and don't like change.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

Wait a sec Mike. You know the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack like the back of your hand but couldn't recall The Trammps?! Hmm, I don't think the phrase knows its like the back of your hand means what you think it does.
Setting that aside, to say that the other artists on the album are phenomenally famous beggars belief. Walter Murphy? David Shire? Ralph MacDonald? MFSB? Come on! only the Bee Gees were giant names. Even when disco ruled the airwaves.

Nancy 1:52 PM  

Crossword constructors don't get any royalties when Will Shortz includes their puzzles in a book he edits??? I had absolutely no idea. If what Anon (1:04 a;m.) and M&A (12:45 p.m.) say is true, it's shameful. I have bought just about all of the challenging WS collections over the years -- books with such titles as "Ferociously Fierce" and "Delightfully Difficult and they've provided much pleasure, but it never occurred to me that the people who did the grunt work of creating my pleasure weren't being compensated. Constructors need to band together -- perhaps even unionize -- and insist that their work cannot be reprinted in any format without a fair and negotiated payment arrangement. I'm not a puzzlemaker -- but as a writer, I'm truly shocked at what seems to me to be pure exploitation.

evil doug 1:56 PM  

Nancy,

Are you prepared to boycott the NYT puzzle in protest? Or not that "truly shocked"....

Unionize? Good gravy....

Anonymous 2:13 PM  

First, can we PLEASE stop with the battery sizes? AA, AAA are cheap ways to get a bunch of A's and should be banned from consideration. And I've never seen or heard of an AAAA battery.
And to Loren Muse Smith: I for one have not given up the good fight. IMPLY means to hint, INFER means to deduce through logic or other means, and I would INFER (I.e., deduce) that any dictionary editor who confuses the two is indeed incompetent.

Anonypuss 2:21 PM  

Maybe the problem is NOT that the NYT doesn't pay constructors enough. Maybe the problem is that constructors are selling too cheap. Or maybe the problem is that we're paying the NYT for low-quality puzzles.

As for me, I have no complaints about the puzzle quality so I'm paying with a clear conscience.

But if the situation is not to your liking, you are free to vote with your dollars.

Hungry Mother 2:44 PM  

Fun theme, easy puzzle, and nice start to the new year.

‘mericans in paris 2:54 PM  

C’mon, people: AAAA batteries have existed for many years, and can still be purchased:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AAAA_battery

What I did not realise until reading the above Wikipedia entry is that standard 9-V batteries contain six of them.

Aketi 3:07 PM  

@Anon 2:13 pm. Look at my avatar and you can now say that you have seen Quadruple A batteries.

Carola 3:08 PM  

I hope this fine Monday puzzle is a harbinger of what awaits us puzzle-doers for the rest of the year. Like @Hartley70, I began by thinking it might be "fine" in the SENSE of a model puzzle for new solvers; in fact, after MARCO and MOAT I wondered if I should send it to my granddaughter, since it seemed to be at grade-school level. But no! I had to work at it, and love that on a Monday. Part of my difficulty was having heard only of DISCO INFERNO, but I also had to fight for PIQUANT, BELEAGUERED, and even AT THAT (I was thinking "As well").

An advantage of posting on the late side is getting to read so many entertaining and informative comments besides having the fun of the puzzle. It looks like so far no one's followed up on the puzzle's nod to a theme-related OPERA ARIA, "Stride la vampa" ("The flames roar") from Verdi's Il trovatore, here sung by Dolora Zajick. The subject might be FIRE but you might find ICE-water running through your veins.

Happy New Year to all!

David Schinnerer 3:27 PM  

See Michael, using the Trammps as a clue makes it a “puzzle”...something you have to figure out...SMH.

Once again, If it’s not in Mike’s wheelhouse, it’s a bad clue.

jb129 3:46 PM  

Looking at these comments - I guess we don't have any rockers here - this was EASY & a pleasure. What's up with u Rex & all the intellectuals out there>

Joe Dipinto 4:26 PM  

"Torch Song" was a hilariously bad 1950's Joan Crawford film. Even more hilarious was the Carol Burnett Show parody of it.

@Anon 1:50 -- I took OFL to mean that the other artists in the puzzle are phenomenally famous. Elvis, the Doors and Bon Jovi are, anyway. YMMV as regards The Bangles.

evil doug 4:57 PM  

That's what I thought, Nancy....*crickets*....

As long as there are puzzle constructors who have been rejected by the NYT dozens of times, but continue to tilt at that windmill again and again; as long as they continue to dream of seeing their bylines with their puzzles in the vaunted New York Times; and as long as most of 'em would do it for nothing in exchange for the moment of fame being published brings; there will be no way that the multitude of wannabes out there will sacrifice that dream to protest the unfavorable terms the paper decrees....

Norm 5:10 PM  

The Microsoft Surface pen requires AAAA batteries, so I expect there are a lot of folks out there who are very familiar with them.

Candy Darling 6:10 PM  

Fuck off Dougie, if that is indeed your name. Wouldn’t it be a shame if constructors were paid a fair wage for their honest labor?

Oh I forgot, as a USAF veteran you’ll enjoy government-subsidized health care for the rest of your pinch-nosed life. Fucking hypocrite.

Z 6:13 PM  

The Fifth Dimension
The Lennon Sisters
Dionne Warwick
Sheryl Crow and Burt Bacharach
Barbra Joan Streisand
And reimagined as a duet for some Glee weirdness
There is more, of course, but I’m going to go fry myself an egg.

Candy Darling 6:13 PM  

That’s what I thought gutless wonder ...*crickets*...

evil doug 6:23 PM  

Here are the facts, dickwad:

I get no health care from USAF. I separated after 6 years. Only retires>20 years receive that.

I served 10,000 Delta pilots on the union strike preparedness committee, contract negotiating team, and as vice chairman of communications. We had serious clout when it came to negotiating pay, pensions and working conditions. Unfortunately - - as I point out - - crossword constructors don't have those advantages. Reality sucks, douche bag.

Nice to see you again, my trained monkey Coco/Candy! I know, I know - - you can't help yourself. That compulsive instinct is in control....

JC66 6:24 PM  

@Candy Darling

You seem to have misunderstood @Evil. He wasn't saying that constructors didn't deserve to be paid more, he was positing why they weren't.

evil doug 6:27 PM  

... And you give me 3 whole minutes to respond before giving me the crickets thing? You really are a weak fuck,Coco/Candy....

JC66 6:27 PM  

@Evil

Lately, I seem to have acquired the knack of typing while the subject of my comment is posting.

JC66 6:28 PM  

Again. ;-)

evil doug 6:29 PM  

I still appreciate it, JC....

GILL I. 6:32 PM  

Thanks @Z...Barbra is still the only one that gives me goose eggs.
There was only one man in my life that I no longer had to fry and egg for.

GILL I. 6:33 PM  

Make that goose bumps. But I guess she also gives me eggs.

Anonymous 6:33 PM  

@evil
To the best of my knowledge, I'm the guy you originally called your pet chimp, and later, Coco. ( I assume you mean Koko the gorilla famed for her use of sign language).
I however AM not the author of whatever has gotten you unhinged. I appreciate anonymous posts make distinctions difficult but, really, a more discerning ear would appreciate the different styles and frankly, different subjects of anonymous posts. If you were half as clever as you think you are you'd refrain from the ad hominem and take a pass on calling those who prefer not to use a vapid user name, well, names.

Candy Darling 7:05 PM  

@Anonymous 6:33, “a more discerning ear” alert to “the different styles and frankly, different subjects of anonymous posts” far exceeds “evil doug’s“ powers of critical analysis. Now, let us leave him to worshipful contemplation of Ayn Rand and his solipsistic priapism.

Gerard Malanga 7:14 PM  

Candy Darling, you’re a bit over the top.

Birchbark 7:18 PM  

Does anyone remember OILSANDS?

JC66 7:30 PM  

@ Birchbark

LOL

Does anyone remember canoes?

Joe Awesome 8:01 PM  

Man there's a lot of complainers out here.

Joe Dipinto 8:08 PM  

#Carola 3:08 -- Dolora Zajick owns that role!

Of all the ridiculous opera plots (and there are so, so many) I've always thought Il Trovatore's exceeds everything else without a doubt. And yet, somehow it works.

Paul Rippey 8:12 PM  

Thanks Lewis! Please keep ‘em coming.

Masked and Anonymous 8:13 PM  

p.s.
Is crossin INFERNO with INFER actually **bad**? Really!?!
Shoot. Now I gotta change my ORNERINESS/NESS crossin, in my own recently-built NYTPuz-sized effort. After another vodka collins, maybe.
What if that was the theme mcguffin, crossin stuff with unrelated stuff that's spelled similar? More acceptable, then? … yeah I didn't think so...

M&Also

hair of the dog:
**gruntz**

DBlock 8:23 PM  

Also found it annoying
Like my puzzle neatly folded

semioticus (shelbyl) 8:38 PM  

Look, I want to cut this puzzle some slack after yesterday's abomination, but... ENE, OMS, OYS, ONT, PFC, RVS, VFW, AAAA, ANAT, GPAS, PTBOAT, TARTAN, GAGSTER... certain parts of NW and NE were brutal for a Monday puzzle. Very bad construction. I have minimal expectations from a Monday puzzle. Don't try to be smart. Don't try to surpass the standards with fresh entries. Find a theme that works and fill the rest with minimal glue.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against a challenging Monday. But PFC/PTBOAT crossing is ridiculous. AAAA is ridiculous. That's not about being challenging, that's laziness.

Now, I'll give credit where it's due. The theme idea was really nice with cute clues and all. I wish that level of effort was spent on the rest of the puzzle too.

GRADE: C+, 2.65 stars.

BarbieBarbie 9:03 PM  

Somebody posted about OILSANDSand water— I had done that earlier but erased/didn’t post as notpuzzle-relevant. Late enough to chime in now, though. The agriculture sector is a big part of our balance of trade, and putting the Oglalla Aquifer at risk is risking that sector big time. OILSANDs are both corrosive and abrasive, and most oil companies do not bother with pipe liners, risking major leaks. Our government has inadequate regulations in place to address or prevent aquifer pollution, preferring to play politics rather than seek solutions (I’m looking at you here, FO Barack— Donald and his buds are not smart enough to recognize there even is an issue- who’s gonna do the deep thinking here, Rick Perry?).
My idea is that at minimum we need to address individual farm owners who profit from allowing these pipelines to cross their land.. Farms crossed by oil pipelines should be ineligible for setaside dollars (money for idle acres, which is generally a good program) in perpetuity. They should have to choose between being treated like good stewards of their land and being sellouts.
IMHO.

Anonymous 9:18 PM  

To Nancy 1:52 p.m. and Eviddoug 4:57 p.m.

My apologies for posting anonymously. If someone can tell me how to find my user name and password, I will give myself a name. I've seen that anonymous posts are taken less seriously, and have for some time begun signing myself anon. i.e. Poggius.

Nancy, I think, cited me as a source that contributors to puzzles were not paid for reprints. I suspect she is right, but I have no idea. My point was that huge amounts of money were made, and, I suspect, most of it went to Will Shortz. This sounds like an anticapitalist message, and perhaps it is. But I suspect that the winners in all this are Shortz and not the NY Times. And I think that the NY Times will not let it be shorted again.

By the way, I thought this was the time of year when Rex tried to raise a little money. I've not seen any solicitations. Perhaps something I have in my system has blocked them. I've never sent him any money. Perhaps this year I will. I disagree with him viscerally, but I have learned from him and I appreciate that. I think I'll give to him what I give to my mailman, about $20.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

Nancy 9:58 PM  

@Poggius/Anon -- I thought you were stating as a fact that constructors get no royalties when their puzzles appear in WS's puzzle collections. I thought that perhaps you were a constructor who knew that from personal experience. I , for my part, have no way of knowing if it's true or not, and would be delighted to learn that it's not true. Certainly I didn't mean to start a rumor on a subject about which I have no info at all.

Old Fat Basterd 11:12 PM  

“Certainly I didn't mean to start a rumor on a subject about which I have no info at all.” Uh, when did that ever stop you?

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Burma Shave 10:02 AM  

VANDAL SCENE

YOUSEE Michael OWNUP to a DISCOINFERNO
when his ETERNALFLAME BELEAGUERED him with love.
NOT WISELY Lisa Marie said, “LIGHTMYFIRE!”, so
in a BLAZEOFGLORY, Jacko lit a BURNIN’GLOVE.

--- LLEWYN ADONAI

thefogman 10:34 AM  

OATBAR? Does anybody really say that? I had tarSANDS before OILSANDS. Tarsands was the name of Alberta's crude bitumen deposits before big oil and the Harper government green washed the term and even forbid government scientists from calling them tar sands. The puzzle was tougher than usual for a Monday. I would rate it a Tuesday or maybe even a Wednesday. The theme was good but it would have been nice to have a revealer to tie it all together instead of the question mark device which pretty much gave it away. I'm surprised he didn't point out OATBAR, but aside from that our BELEAGUERED OFL is spot on with his review. No OYS today! Fair comment with just enough PIQUANT.

spacecraft 10:46 AM  

"Coulda been worse?" I don't know how. This thing was so bad it was actually hard. I guess I'll never understand OFL--and maybe that's a good thing. FAR too many examples of ugly fill to enumerate. And the theme? Song titles referring to fire? That's it? Meh--and not NEARLY worth the price.

Not even a DOD in the woodwork. Yecch. But: NOTHING can PUT this Eagle fan in a bad mood today! So Matthew: work your other job and quit this one. And Will: be SOME kind of filter, OK? Triple bogey.

E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES! At LONG last, a Super Bowl ring!!!

kitshef 12:40 PM  

@spacecraft. Does it have to be in the grid, rather than the clues? In the clues you have your choice of Bangles.

rainforest 2:15 PM  

Another puzzle that some really like, while others really hate.

I thought it had an acceptable theme and many interesting longer answers. Yup there was a lot of short stuff, and I suppose one can go through it and list them, but what's the purpose?

I found it a little tougher than your average Monday, and also had more, er, sparkle.

Great Super Bowl, @Spacey. The Eagles were full value for the win, including a game by Foles that I don't think Wentz could have equaled. If all hands remain, they could be starting something remarkable.

rondo 2:52 PM  

Fairly easy figuring out the torch theme. At first I thought that maybe all the border answers might start with M since the three across did, then realized the G in MIG ruled that out. Not sure that I have actually seen a AAAA battery. LLEWYN only from crosses.

ICECAVEs are a real thing if you visit the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior in the winter, and the conditions are right.

OILSANDS make more sense than tarSANDS because, well you know by now. Only Jane is a fan of tarSANDS.

Was going to award the yeah baby to PALOMA Picasso, but if we go to the clues Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles wins hands down.

Congrats to @spacey’s Eagles. Mighta been Brady’s last BLAZEOFGLORY?

Tom M. 3:06 PM  

You wanna tough Monday puzzle? Okay, you gotta tough Monday puzzle. Great.

Crosses dug out the the little-known (to me) themers, except for the Doors' piece.
Had tarSANDS before OILSANDS. MRFIBB? who he?

PALOMA, vaguely remembered. BELEAGUERED, git yer spelling right. PIQUANT, great word.

LOVEd this one.

Larry Jordan 3:09 PM  

Cash did "Ring of Fire".

rondo 3:32 PM  

Did I ever mention that I played in a band that opened for Johnny Cash? And yes, he performed Ring of Fire.

Diana, LIW 7:23 PM  

Didn't strike me as harder than usual, especially hen you figured out that the songs were...well...just the names of the songs. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Tho I figured OFL would pout.

@rondo - really? Gosh, I didn't remember. ;-) And what did your bank play?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crossworfds

rondo 8:33 PM  

You Jane, me tarSANDS.
@DLIW, among others, Herb Alpert's "A Taste of Honey".

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Anonymous 9:52 PM  

How to get your ex back fast!

I was hurt and heart broken when a very big problem occurred in my marriage seven months ago, between me and my husband . so terrible that he took the case to court for a divorce. he said that he never wanted to stay with me again,and that he didn't love me anymore. So he packed out of the house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get him back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and he confirmed it that he has made his decision,and he never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my husband .So i explained every thing to him,so he told me that the only way i can get my husband back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for him too. So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the Email address of the spell caster whom he visited. Pristbacasim2000@gmail.com. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address he gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my husband back the next day. What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me, and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my husband who didn't call me for the past 7 months, gave me a call to inform me that he was coming back. So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there if you have any kind of problem, Please i will advice you to contact Pristbacasim, i give you 100% guarantee that he will help you solve your problems.. Email him at: Pristbacasim2000@gmail.com

Lizzy Desler 9:53 PM  

How to get your ex back fast!

I was hurt and heart broken when a very big problem occurred in my marriage seven months ago, between me and my husband . so terrible that he took the case to court for a divorce. he said that he never wanted to stay with me again,and that he didn't love me anymore. So he packed out of the house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get him back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and he confirmed it that he has made his decision,and he never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my husband .So i explained every thing to him,so he told me that the only way i can get my husband back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for him too. So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the Email address of the spell caster whom he visited. Pristbacasim2000@gmail.com. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address he gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my husband back the next day. What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me, and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my husband who didn't call me for the past 7 months, gave me a call to inform me that he was coming back. So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there if you have any kind of problem, Please i will advice you to contact Pristbacasim, i give you 100% guarantee that he will help you solve your problems.. Email him at: Pristbacasim2000@gmail.com

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