Tree that's sported to keep visitors out at university (3).



OAK +S(=s sported) is a racing fixture named after the famous Epsom Derby, The Oaks. I have been unable to relate university or Oxbridge jargon, such as gated or up, to the rest of the clue.


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    $\begingroup$ Where is this clue from? e.g. if from a newspaper, what is the name of the newspaper and what day/week/etc. edition? Are you sure it is a cryptic clue, not just a crossword clue? $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Commented Jun 11 at 4:12
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to PSE (Puzzling Stack Exchange)! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ For one, this clue has appeared in the Ashburton Guardian on 03-Dec-16 and 21-Sep-19 (they genuinely reused a whole crossword!) Since crosswords like this often get syndicated out across many publications, I imagine it will also have turned up in other places too (so this might not be where the OP found it) but it's at least confirmation that it's out there in the public domain. $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Jun 11 at 11:19

2 Answers 2


To "sport the oak" means (in Oxbridge, or at least Cambridge, slang) to close the outer door of one's lodgings so as to indicate that no one should come in. E.g., in Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh, chapter 70: "Then there came an awful moment for both of us. A knock, as of a visitor and not a postman, was heard at my door. 'Goodness gracious,' I exclaimed, 'why didn’t we sport the oak? Perhaps it is your father.…'"

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    $\begingroup$ So the clue is a Rot13(PELCGVP QRSVAVGVBA)? $\endgroup$
    – LeppyR64
    Commented Jun 11 at 13:07
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    $\begingroup$ @LeppyR64 Indeed, that's what it seems here $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented Jun 11 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ For further context, this is in an old-fashioned type of room that has two doors in the same doorway - an inner one (called "the door") that doesn't have a lock, and an outer one ("the oak") that does. I haven't seen anything similar outside Oxbridge colleges. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ This is also referenced in Clive James' autobiography, where the meaning is explained: archive.clivejames.com/books/um3-1.htm $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12 at 0:38

"Sporting your oak" is an Oxbridge term meaning to keep your outer door closed (thus signifying that you are not available for casual visits).

See https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sport_one%27s_oak

The term was in use when I was a student (1990s) though largely only as a joke when trying to sound extremely posh!

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    $\begingroup$ This seems to be the same as the answer from 9 hours ago. Please do not duplicate answers unless you have something substantial to add. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Commented Jun 11 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ This answer valuably adds the information that the term is still commonly known in Oxford and Cambridge, even if regarded as a bit old fashioned. There's no need to bite the chap's head off when he's trying to be helpful. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to PSE (Puzzling Stack Exchange)! Your answer nicely compliments msh210’s answer by providing a dictionary reference and some personal experience. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeSpivey It is not commonly known in oxford (based on my sampling). I studied there in the late 90s and have a lot of friends who have studied there at various times in various colleges as well as friends who studied at cambridge. A straw poll of them revealed that none of them had heard it at oxford though some think that maybe they have read it in a book... Obviously this isn't to say that it isn't used but I'd certainly not say it was commonly known. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Jun 11 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12 at 21:05

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