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A model of wavelength-dependent lags in optical continuum variability of AGNs is proposed which avoids the problems of the popular “lamppost” model. Rather than being due to reprocessing of high-energy radiation from a hypothetical source above the accretion disk, the wavelength-dependent delays observed from the B to I bands are instead due to contamination of an intrinsically coherently variable continuum with the Wien tail of the thermal emission from the hot dust in the surrounding torus. The new model correctly gives the size, wavelength dependence, and luminosity dependence of the lags, and quantitatively predicts observed color hysteresis. The model also explains how the measured delays vary with epoch of observation. There must also be contamination by scattered light and this can be detected by a lag in the polarized flux.