Sunday Times Cryptic No 5067 by Dean Mayer — Drifter’s Escape

Enjoyed this a lot. I’ve had two Lucasfilms-trademarked Indiana Jones hats (though I’ve never seen even one of the movies), and there’s a French answer here, and a couple clues playing on French, and a (“socially conscious”) track from a classic 1973 album… several things that are right up my alley, comme on dit. And the answer that took me the most time to parse is all of three letters long. Love it when that happens!

I indicate (Ars Magna)* like this, and italicize anagrinds in the clues.

 1 Is this a dance or what? (6,2)
EXCUSE ME   DD   “The British- and Irish-English expression excuse-me dance (also shortened to excuse-me) denotes a dance in which one may supersede a partner.” (
 5 Warrior caste member’s clash over 7 (6)
RAJPUT   JAR<=“over” + PUT, (clue) 7: POSITION   Wikipedia: « Rajput (from Sanskrit rājaputra meaning “son of a king”; also called Thakur) is a large multi-component cluster of castes, kin bodies, and local groups, sharing social status and ideology of genealogical descent originating from the Indian subcontinent. The term Rajput covers various patrilineal clans historically associated with warriorhood: several clans claim Rajput status, although not all claims are universally accepted. According to modern scholars, almost all Rajput clans originated from peasant or pastoral communities. »   …I knew this word, from somewhere, sometime…
10 Italian city about to welcome a ruler (7)
EMPEROR   ROME<=“about” inserting PER, “a”
11 Crossing river is big problem for marsupial (7)
OPOSSUM   OS (oversize) + SUM, “problem” spanning the river PO
12 American country music embraces Democrat protest song (2,3,4)
US AND THEM  US, “American” + ANTHEM, “country music” with D(emocrat) inside  The (anti-war) song is from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
14 Bathroom walls dry in house (5)
LOTTO   LO(TT)O   Definition 19 for “house” in Collins: “Brit | a variety of lotto or bingo played with paper and pencil, esp. by soldiers as a gambling game”
15 Return from work (6,6)
18 Solo player cross after air horn’s blasted (8,4)
HARRISON FORD   (air horn’s)* + FORD, “cross”   He attained worldwide fame with his portrayal of Han Solo in the Star Wars films.   …None of which I’ve seen either
21 Dilute good cup of tea (5)
THING   THIN, “dilute” + G(ood)   Definition 14 of “thing” in “Informal. a particular interest or talent: Sports is not my thing.” “Cup of tea” has but one definition: “a task, topic, person, or object well-suited to a person’s experience, taste, or liking.”
22 Handles bent as it was held (5,4)
DEALS WITH   (it was held)*
23 Bear or horse shelter (7)
HARBOUR   H(orse) + ARBOUR, “shelter”
24 Lettuce and eggs sliced by chief (7)
26 Spicy meat used in dishe{s a la Mi}lanese (6)
SALAMI   Hidden   Of course, à la is misspelled in the surface because it wouldn’t provide the hidden word if it had the accent.
27 Like a bad shot — horrible! (2,6)
AS THOUGH   A + (shot)* + UGH, “horrible!”
 1 Butcher’s report of Tour de France? (6)
EYEFUL   “Eiffel”: the tour named after the engineer Gustav E. that has adorned Paris’s Champ de Mars since the 1889 World’s Fair. “Butcher” is CRS for “look,” short for “butcher’s hook.”
 2 Caught up with old men for casual drinks (6)
CUPPAS   C(aught) + UP + PAS
 3 Teacher in old college wasting time (3)
SIR   StIR   In antiquated (“obsolete” and “mainly British,” according to Collins) slang, “college” is a euphemism for prison, as is “stir.”   …This was my LOI, believe it or not (I started out thinking there might be some very convoluted, and possibly faulty, play around EtON), and it was understood long after I wrote in the answer.  I’m sure that prison can be a kind of college, indeed—and I assume there must be people who sometimes feel that the converse is true. But even I, a two-time college dropout (it was a good school, too…), wouldn’t go that far (now). College debt, though…  that can be a lifetime sentence.
 4 Firing left and right, say (8,6)
MARCHING ORDERS   DD, the first being (per Collins) a “notice of dismissal, esp from employment”
 6 A star drinks litre in mineral water (11)
APOLLINARIS  A POL(L)(IN)ARIS   …As it happens, I have on a wall here a yellow old newpaper ad for this brand, from Paris-soir (banned after WWII for collaborating with the enemy), which reads, “LA VIE EST CHÈRE? MANGEZ DES BRIQUES! et digérez-les avec… Apollinaris, L’EAU QUI FAIT DIGERER LES BRIQUES” (“Cost of living too high? EAT BRICKS! and digest them with… Apollinaris, the water that makes bricks digestible”)!
 7 I’m leaving tax office (8)
 8 Singer against “The King of Pop” singles (3,5)
TOM JONES   TO, “against” + MJ, Michael Jackson + ONES, “singles”
 9 “Head of firm” same in translation? (5,9)
HOMME D’AFFAIRES  (“Head of firm” same)*  &lit  “Head of firm” is not an exact translation of HOMME D’AFFAIRES, which merely means “businessman,” but that’s what the question mark is for, to denote a definition by example.
13 Part of house contract put in order (7,4)
DRAWING ROOM   DRAW IN, “contract” + GROOM, “put in order”
16 Set about securing opening for roofs (8)
THATCHES   HATCH, “opening” inside (Set)*
17 Supporter upset with corrupt trial of judges (8)
ARBITRAL   BRA<=“upset” + (trial)*
19 Heading for meal, I will have place setting (6)
MILIEU   Meal + I + LIEU, “place”
20 Old leaves beginning to separate from husks and straw (6)
25 Not so hot when skirt’s lifted (3)
MEH   HEM<=“lifted”   The definitions for HEM and “skirt” as verbs are where the sense of the two words can be virtually identical—e.g., in Collins, HEM can mean “form an edge or border on or around” and “skirt,” “to form the edge of” or “to provide with a border.”


20 comments on “Sunday Times Cryptic No 5067 by Dean Mayer — Drifter’s Escape”

  1. I thought this was the setter’s most fiendish ST puzzle in a long time – really tricky in places but packed with doozies, it took me three sittings to crack completely.
    I did get TOM JONES surprisingly quickly by guessing ‘ones’ for the end, but wondered if there’d be a moan or two about ‘MJ’, even though it’s the title of a hit Broadway musical about him. No problem with US AND THEM, but then I’ve been listening to Floyd for ages, and I’ve seen enough people posting MEH on internet forums for that not to be understood.
    EYEFUL was my favourite, it’s brilliant.
    Thanks to DM and Guy.

  2. 70 minutes using aids for a couple once the hour had passed. Too many unknown references for me.

    1. Almost ‘snap’, Jack. Almost the same time and I also used aids for a couple of clues, RAJPUT and EYEFUL.

  3. 55′ and change
    I spent 36′ online, and with 10 clues remaining went to lunch. Hard sledding all the way. Didn’t understand 3d, but S_R leaves little choice. Ditto with THRESH. Ditto with TOM JONES; MJ would have meant nothing to me. DNK US AND THEM, but at least I parsed it. I have a ! at 17d: I would hope that Dean would avoid supporter=BRA. I think my favorites were 18ac HARRISON FORD, & 9D HOMME D’AFFAIRES.

  4. 68m 03s but aids used to solve RAJPUT and EYEFUL.
    Slightly quirky puzzle, as can happen on a Sunday what with Michael Jackson reduced to MJ; a Pink Floyd song title, US AND THEM; a live person, HARRISON FORD, and product placement with APOLLINARIS.
    Thank you for explaining SIR, Guy. I have never heard of STIR being referred to as a college. Thanks also for THRESH. It had to be that but I couldn’t see how it worked.
    COD: (im)POSITION.

  5. In the end the one I couldn’t parse was TRESH. Seems obvious now. Thanks for the explanation. US AND THEM took a lot of googling to find. Not a genre I know much about or enjoy. Spent far too long reading through Roger Collins on Comme. I was well and truly misdirected for some considerable time.

  6. Took a long time, way over an hour. I couldn’t parse THRESH (should have) or TOM JONES (same comment as Kevin) either but had heard of ‘college’ as a colloquialism for “prison”. NHO APOLLONARIS which went in with little confidence as one possible parsing with ‘mineral water’ as the def, but for all I knew, the def could have been ‘A star’. Last in was RAJPUT which I was more confident about after purging my brain of “war” for ‘clash’. I’ve used MEH once in my life (today) and don’t intend to again.

    Favourites were the two French flavoured clues – the ‘Tour de France?’ bit of the wordplay for EYEFUL and the cross-Channel anagrammatic serendipity of HOMME D’AFFAIRES.

    Thanks to Guy and Dean

  7. This was very hard for me, but in the end, after a couple of days (!) the grid was completed, if not fully understood. In fact I had question marks against 4 clues. I can see how THRESHOLD can mean a beginning in the sense of ‘on the …. of a new life’, but it really means an entrance. Anyway, that’s why it didn’t occur to me. Like Kevin, I’d not heard of ‘the King of Pop’ as Michael Jackson and really, the less we hear about him the better. I used to have a copy of Dark Side of the Moon in the dim, distant past, but I’d forgotten the song, so equally puzzled by that. And finally, I’d never heard of ‘college’ referring to a prison. However, it puts me in mind of an incident in Stephen Fry’s autobiography, where the public-school educated boy, having gone completely off the rails, ends up spending a period in ‘stir’, where he actually found himself completely at home, since it more-or-less replicated his own life thus far, having been sent to male boarding schools since the age of 7!
    So many great clues – but have to mention the stand-out EYEFUL, HOMME D’AFFAIRES and the ‘Solo player’. Brilliant! Thanks as ever to Dean and Guy.

  8. No time as I didn’t. I just enjoyed the puzzle.
    NHO RAJPUT but built from WP.
    I parsed SIR differently with SIRT being the old college (Indian) removing the ‘T’
    APOLLINARIS another NHO built from WP looking up after. And I assumed “The King of Pop” was Michael Jackson.

  9. 42:50. I found this extremely hard, but also very rewarding. Lots of great clues, of which I think ‘tour de France’ is my favourite. My last in by miles was RAJPUT, where I completely failed to see the number 7 in the clue so was unsurprisingly mystified.
    Accents are habitually ignored in these things so I don’t think there’s any good reason not to have included the accent in ‘à la Milanese’.

    1. The missing accent on à struck me as a… grave error at first, but I decided to give the editor the benefit of the doubt. The all-forgiving Merriam-Webster even lists the phrase sans the accent as a “variant” in English.

      1. Yes, it was a “grave” error. I’m mildly surprised that the hawkeyed sub who reads all the clues didn’t pull me up for it.

        1. I’m sure you must feel it acutely, but it’s understandable in the circumflexes.
          I’m here all week, try the chicken.

        2. Honestly, I nearly dropped you a line last Sunday… but then, as I said…

    2. In high school around sixty years ago we had a French girl from Paris join our class after the Christmas break. I think her father was consular staff. Anyways much to our astonishment she refused to use any accents in her written work.. The teacher was at a loss how to grade her essays or tests- if he deducted a mark for every accent missing she’d end up with zero, so he compromised and just deducted something like a flat 10 percent from her total. She told us she and her friends back home refused to use accents – a silly anachronism- but of course they received a lot of flak from parents and teachers. I wonder how long they kept this youthful rebellion up after leaving school and beyond!

  10. DNF/cheated as usual, and was unable to parse A LOT: 5a, 3d, 7d, 8d.
    9d HOMME D’… was a total surprise; whilst my French is rubbish I thought I had an OK vocab, but HD’A wasn’t in it. Surprised to see Dr Google was very aware of the term, but didn’t indicate that it was ever imported into English.
    A good Xword.
    Was surprised by Harrison Ford, but of course this is the Sunday. Good clue. I did see Star Wars unlike our blogger because my nephew stayed with us for a week or two and REALLY wanted to see it; he was about 4 or 5. I never recognised that Indiana J was Han Solo, so was very surprised when I looked it up.

  11. Thanks Dean and guy
    Also found this pretty tough – after nearly an hour over brunch, had only completed the left hand side. Came home and another 3/4 or an hour with plenty of referential help to complete the grid. Missed the parsing of HARBOUR (was working with the definition being ‘shelter’ and trying to force an anagram from ”bear or h’ – nearly worked, but didn’t) and THRESH (where THRESH[old] just didn’t enter the thought process). Needed the blog to see that ‘tour de Paris’ was referring to the ‘tower’ and not the ‘bike race’ and near where it finishes – was a dip of the hat when the blog explained it. Still had HARRISON FORD as my cod – a gem !
    Had to look up US AND THEM as the ‘Pink Floyd song’, RAJPUT as the ‘warrior caste and APOLLINARIS as the mineral water.
    Finished in the SW corner with AS THOUGH (great and tricky clue), MILIEU and that unparsed THRESH the last one in.

  12. Quite a few cheats in here, to complete the puzzle in a reasonable time before the real start to the day: EYEFUL, RAJPUT(NHO) and EXCUSE ME ( that and 1d brilliant clues!) Could be that the obvious clever cluing put me on the back foot, as it were. OPOSSUM, thankfully, quickly in, and was delighted to work out HARRISON FORD, which gave me enough heart to keep going. Would never have got the reference to MJ in 8d, and struggled to find a partner word for ? -INCOME ( tried everything from casual to honest); so the two long down clues eluded me. Happy to get the smattering that I did in the time (about an hour), and especially appreciated 1s a and d, LOTTO, THING and DRAWING ROOM.

  13. My first post after decades of slowly getting better at solving these wonderful crosswords, for which many thanks to the excellent academic and witty comments herein. I don’t do them all, down under I still get a hard copy of the weekend newspaper which has Sunday and Monday’s offerings and occasionally I download the Friday or Saturday crossword for an extra challenge, but I most enjoy the struggle with Dean Mayer’s Sunday puzzles, usually taking a couple of days. After completing a few unaided recently I thought I’d finally “got there” but I had to resort to Google to find the mineral water and warrior caste this time. I thought EYEFUL by far the best clue, particularly well hidden during the bicycle version of le tour
    … nothing to do with crosswords but I notice a lot of people seem to get their easts and wests round the wrong way, this time Bruce, assigning THRESH to the SW corner, when he means SE. So, it is an antipodean thing (?) or is it because the E and W are adjacent on the keyboard so easy to mis-type?

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