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A day to say goodbye . . . // . . . and hello to "Dilbert' and "Pickles'

Get out your programs, comics fans. We've got a couple of changes for you.

Beginning in Monday's Times, "Calvin & Hobbes" will go quietly into retirement and "Tight Corner," that "Far Side" wannabe, will be sent packing.

In their places will be "Dilbert" and "Pickles," which sounds like a husband-and-wife vaudeville act but is actually a pair of popular comic strips.

"Dilbert," the continuing saga of a mouthless little office worker who is convinced he's surrounded by idiots (sound familiar?), is only 6 years old. But the strip is carried by more than 500 newspapers, and it appears on America Online and the Internet. In fact, Scott Adams, the 38-year-old former middle manager who draws "Dilbert," says many of the story lines for the strip come from e-mail sent to him by readers.

The ups and downs of growing older is the theme of "Pickles," which chronicles the lives of Earl and Opal Pickles. Cartoonist Brian Crane's cast also includes Earl and Opal's divorced daughter and her son.

"We picked up "Dilbert' because it was such a popular strip nationwide and because I was getting notes from people in the mail and through e-mail suggesting we pick it up," said Nancy Waclawek, Times assistant managing editor for topics and features. "It's a funny strip that reflects life in the workplace these days, and I think it adds a new character and a new theme to the comics pages.

" "Pickles' was suggested by many of our retiree readers who had seen in it other newspapers. It's funny, and it also seemed like a good addition.

"Our readers nearly unanimously hated "Tight Corner," Waclawek added, "so I'm hoping the end of that strip will make a lot of people happy."

"Pickles" will appear seven days a week; "Dilbert," Monday through Saturday.

One final note: because of space constraints, "Cathy" will not appear today, but will return Monday.

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