23597 – Excelsior

Posted on Categories Daily Cryptic

Solving time: 18:58

Maths, Physics, Latin, French, English, History. Although I have six Highers, I didn’t spot that “exam” meant “HIGHER” in 1A until I thought to subtract JACK from HIGHJACKER. There was self-kicking.

The dog in the opposite slot at 27A was entirely new to me, though the wordplay was fairly clear and the correct spelling could be worked out with a few crossing letters. In the other two corners OGRE/ERGO and FLOG/GOLF are two of the most frequent 4-letter reversals I can think of.

Overall this crossword had interesting approaches to cluing and some amusing surfaces. And although it took me a long-ish time, there was never a doubt about the solutions once found. That is most of what a good crossword is for me.

I found it harder than usual to decide which clues deserved comment. Do ask if you would like explanations of ones I have skipped.


1 HIGH(JACK)ER – long and misleading definition
8 POMP + I + DOU(r) – I had forgotten that he died in office
9 LESSEN (=”lesson” = example)
10 (C)ROOK – man for chess-piece again
12 OUT + SPOKEN – It is as a noun that “out” can mean “excuse”
14 W + AVER – This stumped me for a while because I thought the definition included the “of” and so was of a transitive verb. In fact “of” is just a link word.
24 S(I)MILE – definition of figures of speech by example like this is still rare enough that I often take ages to spot them
27 SCHIP(PER)KE being PER (=for every) in (HE PICKS)*


1 HYP(ER)BOLE, being ER in (HELP BOY)*
2 GUM + BOOT(h), GUM being MUG(rev), and William BOOTH being the founder and first general of the Salvation Army
3 A + (er)UDITION – complicated substitution neatly handled
6 FAST (=rapidly) + TRACK (=firm line) – as it is defined as a verb, I think this should probably have been (4-5) rather than (4,5)
15 RETROUSSE, being (US RESORT)* + E – the first clue I solved. I was working through the acrosses with rising panic and looked at this to see if I was right that 14A ended in a W. I wasn’t, but at least I had made a start.
16 FIRE + T + RAP
18 READING – two meanings, but I am not sure how many words are in the first one, and what are link words
20 IN + H(ALE)R – “drink” being a happy containment indicator
21 GREENS – I am not entirely sure how to parse this one. Are “commons” “greens”? Or do they include “greens”? Neither exactly to my mind. But perhaps that is just because my knowledge of commons is limited. Neither works for Tooting Bec Common or Wimbledon Common. On edit after comments: “Commons healthier for including these” means “greens” because “commons” means “food”.

10 comments on “23597 – Excelsior”

  1. I think 21D is a triple definition. Commons, healthier for including these and politicians could all be considered to clue GREENS (although the middle definition is a tad weak).
    1. For reference, Chambers’ definition of green includes:

      a grassy plot, esp that common to a village or town

      ..meaning common is fine as a synonym.

  2. As an aside, I went through a number of reversed games before spotting GOLF/FLOG: BRAG/GARB, POOL/LOOP and SNAP/PANS.
  3. Among the definitions of ‘commons’ in Chambers is ‘food in general’, so I find it a nice clue.
  4. I enjoyed this puzzle and was pleased with my time of 7:11 – more so now that I’ve seen Richard’s, as he usually reckons to take about 50% longer than me.

    I had 21D as two defs, one cryptic – “Commons healthier for including these” is the cryptic one (commons = food as Anon has noted alreadu), and “politicians” is the other. Common = green as in village green didn’t occur to me while solving, and I think has to be considered a ‘bonus’ rather than a third def.

    18D I read as def – “Knowledge of lieterature” / link – “gained from” / def – “university” (Reading with cap R). But I guess you could read(!) it as a single cryptic def.

    After solving this on paper, I marked the clues I’d have written about, and the overlap with your list is about 85%.

    1. No. CATS CRADLE is a game (with string, I think), while CATS means “men into jazz”
      1. Thanks! Might as well double-check my understanding of KNUCKLE SANDWICH Definition is “slug” (verb) and can be derived as KNUCKLE=joint and SANDWICH=”buffet snack”.
        1. Yes, that’s right. Or more completely, the overall definition is “Slug commonly” (because KNUCKLE SANDWICH is slang); “found in” is linking words; KNUCKLE is “joint of meat”; and SANDWICH, as you say, is “buffet snack”.
  5. Having more Greens (Green party MPs) in the Commons (House of) is fair enough to make it “healthier” – with the ? at the end of the clue indicating a bit of a pun? I don’t think we have to invoke the village green at all?

    A pocketful of “easies” including Richard’s selection of the most common word reversals:

    6a Beat in game after suffering setback (4)
    FLOG. Reversal #1. Game = GOLF.

    11a Like work producing carpet? (4,2,4)

    17a Gradually destroy characters DumblEDORE’s about to protect (5)

    19a Man one has to avoid in woman’s clothing (4-5)

    22a Game of crib started by men into jazz (4,6)
    CATS CRADLE. Not cool dudes playing cribbage.

    23a Drive away from film before it has finished (4)
    SHOO (T)

    25a (Serials)* broadcast involving island people from the Med? (8)

    26a A beast is so, on its back (4)
    OGRE. Reversal #2 ERGO = SO.

    4d Slug commonly found in joint of meat and buffet snack (7,8)

    5d Give account of troops no longer alive (6)

    7d What superintendent will do having finished with witness (7)

    13d (I despise w)*ife prepared to make jibe when passing (9)

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