EV 1456 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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EV 1456

Enigmatic Variations 1456

Villains by Stick Insect

Setter’s Blog

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.

5 comments on “EV 1456

  1. Yes, I tip my hat to any setter prepared to use misprints as a cluing gimmick. There invariably comes a point when a nasty letter collides with a recalcitrant word and you ask yourself why you did it.
    I really enjoyed this; there’s a satisfying feeling when you’ve solved a few crossing entries and realise how they might fit together. And I hadn’t appreciated the pangrammatic aspect, which I usually view as an unnecessary indulgence but which was entirely appropriate here.

  2. I found your comments above very interesting and must say I can’t begin to imagine how you would go about creating such an involved puzzle. Certainly my completion of it made me feel very satisfied and that all my effort had been worthwhile. My attraction to the EV puzzles continues to grow, so once again thank you for providing the challenge.

  3. When we spotted what the missing letter was and were looking for the quote we got fixated on one from My Fair Lady that referenced a racehorse called Dover and could be read as an instruction on what to do with the appropriate letter. We were not familiar at that stage with the required quote or the villains.
    A lot of fun and guffaws from both of us.
    Thanks Stick Insect.

  4. Hope I’m not too late to the party here. I really wanted to express my appreciation for this puzzle. I’m usually at a complete loss when it comes to pop culture references in British crosswords, but I felt this one was constructed especially for me. So, thanks for that, Stick Insect! Of all the niche themes I’ve seen in the (very limited amount of) EVs I’ve done, it was amusing to read that you thought a Star Trek theme might be too inaccessible.

    And on the subject of pangrams, as a solver, I find them very satisfying when they’re done well. In fact, my introduction to Stick Insect was on a Toughie back on April 16th in which he managed to craft a wonderful DOUBLE pangram. That’s impressive enough. But the aspect that really blew me away was that, even under those strict constraints, the grid was filled with friendly words that didn’t require a trip to the dictionary (a rarity when it comes to me vs. Toughies in general). That’s the type of puzzle that solvers vividly remember a half year later. Same can be said about puzzles that reference the Borg.

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