Enigmatic Variations 1486
Satisfaction by proXimal
Correct letters of misprints give WHY DOES A FRENCHMAN HAVE ONLY ONE EGG FOR BREAKFAST; ONE EGG is changed to UN OEUF in the grid.
My previous EV this year had a German theme related to the excommunication of Martin Luther, so I was keen to have a less highbrow topic for my next one; I think the inspiration for this puzzle came when I was editing EV1478: Excusez-moi by Eclogue, which had a French theme. The previous EV editor, Chris Lancaster, had based some of his own puzzles on jokes and I thought I’d continue the tradition (at least for one puzzle!). The length of the joke looked like it could be generated by single letters from most or all of a set of clues in a usual 12×12 or 13×13 grid. The happy coincidence of ONE EGG and UN OEUF both having six letters meant that this could be used as a simple endgame manipulation and nothing else would be required, so a nice unfussy puzzle.
At the moment, I’m favouring producing puzzles where a message is generated in grid entries, rather than from clues; there are lots of puzzles with e.g. extra letters in clues, generated in wordplay, extra words in clues, misprints in clues etc. I hadn’t seen a puzzle where a message is generated by misprints in entries, so decided to use this puzzle to experiment with that format. I use the compiling utility Qxw for all my barred crosswords and it happens to have an option for producing misprinted entries — I just needed to select which entries would have misprints and type in the message/joke. Then there was a lot of faff with designing a grid and getting the ONE EGG/UN OEUF manipulation right so that real words are maintained throughout (as seemed right for this puzzle). The resulting puzzle went off to my two testers and was met with a mixed response; the original puzzle had some misprinted cells shared by both across and down entries, some misprints in unchecked cells and a central entry of ABIESES changing to ABIOSES — ABIES is a tree genus, so ABIESES was thought to be a bit of a dodgy/unwelcome plural. While the puzzle was solvable and unambiguous, one of the testers found it weird that the misprints weren’t in individual checked cells.
So, it was back to the drawing board, as I wasn’t happy to use that puzzle based on the feedback. I set about redesigning the grid with a better central entry of BANDELIER changing to BANDOLIER. You can’t specify that the cell containing the misprint should be checked in Qxw, so there was a lot of manual work and experimentation with various configurations, but I found I could get a reasonable grid with all misprints occurring in cells checked by crossing entries; I was particularly happy to be able to include some long-misprinted entries such as FABULOUS/SABULOUS and some surprising misprints such as MUTATE/OUTATE. This led to a more consistent gimmick and it was good to be able to produce a reasonably gobbledygook-free preamble for an unusual device. I hope that solvers found it an enjoyable experience to tackle something different from the norm and I’ll look to be using this device again in future (maybe I’ll also receive such puzzles from setters, too ). There is a puzzle to be published in June on The Crossword Centre, ‘June Journey’ by eXternal, which uses a misprinted entry gimmick in a different way.
Finally, as a chicken-keeper, I should say that one egg for breakfast is never enough; I am fortunate enough to have four good layers (pictured below) and get various sizes of egg ranging from the small one below from my little bantam cross to the oversize one on the right, which turned out to be a double-yolker!
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.