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)
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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