Saturday, May 15, 2010

Neat and Lowers: What's the connection?

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cow-neat-lower Question: What is common between the words "neat" and "lowers"?
Answer: In cryptic clues, both words may lead to COWS.

Here they are in action:

Everyman 3286: Flower in neat border (7) COWSLIP 
                        COWS (neat) LIP (border)

NIE 17-Jul-2009: A direction to lower the boat (4) SCOW
                          S (a direction) COW (lower)

Confused? This is confusing the first time you see it. There is a simple explanation – read on to know more, and keep this handy in your crossword jargon memory. You'll meet the "neat = lowers = cows" equation time and again in cryptic clues.

Cattle Connection Demystified

Crossword setters love to use secondary meanings of common words to lead the solver astray. "Low" and "neat" are two such words with multiple meanings.

The dictionary lists:

low –verb (used without object)
to utter the deep, low sound characteristic of cattle; moo.

To "low", setters apply their other favourite device: suffixing –ER to the verb to create a noun with a twist. If low = moo, then lower = one that moos, i.e. a bovine animal.

Here's a crafty clue using "lower" in its bovine sense:

Times 23363: Compound decrease - lower most of aim (4,5) IRON OXIDE
                     IRON (de-crease i.e. remove crease) OX (lower) IDE[a] (most of 'aim')                    

I thought that was neat. But let's see what the dictionary has to say about another meaning of "neat".

neat –noun
      an animal of the genus Bos; a bovine, as a cow, bull or ox.

Chambers lists this meaning as archaic, but it lives on hale and hearty in crosswords.

"Neat" can be used in the singular or plural form; it can lead to cow or cows, or cattle, or any other animal of the genus Bos.

A clue using neat = OX:

Times 24491: With nothing that marks the spot, stay out of sight in neat cover (6) OXHIDE
                     O (nothing) X (that marks the spot) HIDE (stay out of sight)

Solve These

Some clues that play on the cattle connection of NEAT and LOWER. Can you solve them?

Guardian 24891 (Araucaria): Referee with his belt turning to cow? (7-6)
Times Sunday 4198: Young, neat creature I captured for the sultan (5)
Times 24272: Terribly dangerous, when confronted by cow, to be caught napping? (5,4,5)

Nash On Cows

Since many of you enjoy Ogden Nash's works, sharing from memory his lines dedicated to the cow.

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.

Two cows, mildly mooing;
No bull; nothing doing.

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11 comments

Anax said...

Although it's common crossword fare I've never liked NEAT = cattle. As you say, Chambers lists it as archaic and I've never heard "neat" used outside crosswordland. But the LOW (and LOWER) references do remind me of a brilliant Times clue by the setter known to Indie solvers as Bannsider (this may not be verbatim):
What cows go through circling near African city (8)

The wordplay construction is MO(NR)O VIA, and I'll leave you to rejoice in the way he's defined MOO.

Shuchi said...

Hi Anax, Thanks - as you say, brilliant clue.

NEAT = cattle seems very unpopular :) I remember this fierce discussion over it among commenters on fifteensquared. In the controversial clue, Enigmatist had used "neat condition" to define FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE.

Anonymous said...

24891 - Whistle Blower (B-lower)

Anonymous said...

24272 - Lower one's guard ?

Anonymous said...

4198 - cal(i)f?

Balaji said...

Guardian 24891 (Araucaria): Referee with his belt turning to cow? (7-6) WHISTLE BLOWER
Times Sunday 4198: Young, neat creature I captured for the sultan (5) CALIF
Times 24272: Terribly dangerous, when confronted by cow, to be caught napping? (5,4,5) ? ? LOWER?

gnomethang said...

Excellent stuff but don't forget KINE as a plural noun for cows.
I seem to recall it in KINETIC about 15 years ago.
I can't quite remember the clu!

Shuchi said...

Welcome here, gnomethang!

I've seen KINE not too long ago in the Times...even tried to hunt for the clue but couldn't locate it. I'll put an addendum or a separate post whenever I have some examples using KINE. Thank you for the suggestion!

Shuchi said...

Good answers, Anonymous and Balaji. The complete annotations:

Guardian 24891 (Araucaria): Referee with his belt turning to cow? (7-6) WHISTLE-B (with his belt)* + LOWER (cow)

Times Sunday 4198: Young, neat creature I captured for the sultan (5)
CALF (young, neat creature) around I

Times 24272: Terribly dangerous, when confronted by cow, to be caught napping? (5,4,5)
ONES GUARD (dangerous)* after LOWER (cow)

Virtual Linguist said...

This has just crossed my desk for editing, and I remembered your post, Shuchi. Identical clue to one you cited, but different answer: Flower in neat border (5). Answer is Oxlip.

Shuchi said...

Thanks Susan. What a coincidence. I used to write posts tagged "ditto" earlier, about similar clues that I solved around the same time. Found many similar clues, but identical was rare.