Enigmatic Variations 1456
Villains by Stick Insect
Answers are entered without the letter R, in line with RESISTANCE IS FUTILE, ref THE BORG in Star Trek; misprinted letters give NUGATORY, OTIOSE, SISYPHEAN, SLEEVELESS, VAIN and INEPT, synonyms for FUTILE.
I began regularly solving The Listener crossword in the Times about twenty years ago and made the move into setting for them in 2010. I first submitted to the EV in 2013 when Chris Lancaster — now the overall Telegraph puzzles editor — took over as the EV editor and made a point of encouraging new setters. Chris also helped me to begin setting Toughies three years ago and I’ve also added a number of thematic crosswords for The Magpie in the last couple of years, which was about the time I retired. Work did have an annoying tendency to take up valuable crosswording time…
This puzzle was my thirteenth EV. My first – in 2013 – marked the fiftieth anniversary of Dr Who, so you may correctly infer an interest in science fiction, though only one of the intervening eleven puzzles was SF related, so I like to think I do have some other interests. I had thought some time ago about setting a Star Trek related puzzle, but worried that it might be considered too inaccessible to solvers who don’t share the interest. However, when browsing one day through the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, I was amused to find the catchphrase section had “resistance is futile” and that provided the catalyst: if it’s in ODQ, then it should be possible to find.
The phrase of course pretty much suggests the thematic treatment required, so it was just a question of creating a grid using the excellent QXW software created by Quinapalus (also an excellent setter) with a custom dictionary of words missing their Rs. As I wanted The Borg to appear to confirm the theme, one R was going to have to appear, so blocking off the central cell and making it part of the endgame again seemed the obvious route. I decided I wanted to emphasise the lack of Rs by including all the other 25 letters in the grid, which turned out not to be too hard to achieve, hence a pangram once that central R was inserted. Picking up on the Numpties’ thoughts on pangrams in the hints, I agree they aren’t something to be wedded to – some of my Toughies are pangrammatic, some aren’t – but felt there was some sort of point to it on this occasion.
Finally, I wanted some way to give a pointer for those for whom a lack of Rs wouldn’t necessarily suggest “resistance is futile”. Providing some synonyms for “futile” through clue misprints was intended to be helpful on the one hand, but of course providing some challenge in sorting them out on the other. As the Numpties have said, that can be challenging to the setter too. The one I remember struggling most with was catarrh, with the definition requiring a misprinted Y.
My thanks to all those who’ve reviewed and commented (or are going to) here and at Fifteensquared: it’s always really helpful to know what worked and what didn’t. It was also nice to see some of the regular Toughie solvers giving the EV a go and I hope many will have found it enjoyable enough to become EV regulars too.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.