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Welcome to Sunday Puzzle Warm-Up -- a chance to have a little fun on a Saturday night and to get your brain warmed up for Sunday evening's puzzle party.

1. take time off

3. skilled person
4. popular short-tailed rodent
Those are the first four clues to tonight's JulieCrostic. Twenty more clues (plus complete instructions on how JulieCrostics work) are awaiting you down below...

 5. doesn't exist
 6. pillow candies
 7. predatory insect
 8. prisoners
  9. fix
10. titled
11. cursed
12. Boston Brand
13. appeared on Fox News
14. irritated
15. depended on
16. transport
17. hasty
18. burns
19. presides
20. Bunker and Andrews
21. lemony
22. parts of a day
23. strong forward flow
24. like Samson before he met Delilah
If you're new to Sunday Puzzle and aren't familiar with JulieCrostics, here's a quick rundown of how they work.

What you do is solve the clues and write the answers in rows. Tonight's puzzle has 6 rows with four answers per row. Each word in a row contains all the letters of the previous word, plus one new letter. Write the added letters in the space between the word which doesn't have it and the word which does. The vertical columns created by the added letters will spell out a word or phrase.

For example, here are the clues and the answer diagram for last week's puzzle.

THE CLUES for last week's puzzle:

 1. honey maker
 2. purple vegetable
 3. soft close-fitting visorless cap
 4. improved

 5. black sticky stuff
 6. Gary who got in trouble for Monkey Business
 7. diagram
 8. stiffener

 9. MDs
10. Communists
11. groups of animals
12. cunning

13. abbreviation related to vitamins
14. a sip or small quantity
15. emotional conflict
16. a fleet of ships

17. limb
18. strong wind
19. Dr. Zaius's assistant
20. person who fishes

ANSWER DIAGRAM for last week's puzzle:
bee  T  beet  R  beret  T  better
tar  H  Hart  C  chart  S  starch
DRs  E  reds  H  herds  W  shrewd
RDA  M  dram  A  drama  A  armada
leg  A  gale  N  Galen  R  angler
The verticals read THEMA  RCHAN  TSWAR. When properly spaced that should read The Merchants' War -- a science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl.

That's what the verticals should say. But those mischievous gremlins sneaked in and changed the verticals to The March Ants' War. They seem to have a thing about the month of March.

Good thing this is the last weekend of March! Next weekend things should be back to normal. But you might want to be on the look-out tonight, just in case the gremlins made any changes to tonight's puzzle...

Puzzle Party / SUNDAY PUZZLE / Puzzle Party / SUNDAY PUZZLE / Puzzle Party /

PS: The Merchants' War is a sequel to a previous novel by Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth, The Space Merchants, about a future world run by corporations. Both novels are science fiction classics, well worth finding and reading. Here's a quick Wikipedia summary:

In a vastly overpopulated world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge trans-national corporations. Advertising has become hugely aggressive and by far the best-paid profession. Through advertising, the public is constantly deluded into thinking that the quality of life is improved by all the products placed on the market. Some of the products contain addictive substances designed to make consumers dependent on them. However, the most basic elements of life are incredibly scarce, including water and fuel...
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