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User Can Not Log In

While playing around with Xfce, startx, and fvwm I've managed to clobber something such that the user can't log in. All attempts result in a fresh login box with my inputs removed. However, it is still possible to log in as root.

I've tried passwd to no avail.

I've tried editing /etc/shadow and removing everything between the first two : (expecting to log in with a blank or no password) to no avail.

To get to this point, I used Xfce on:
#1 SMP Debian 3.16.39-1 (2016-12-30)

fvwm was installed using
Synaptic and run from an Xfce terminal session. When it did not produce the expected result, I shut down and rebooted. At this point it was no longer possible to log in as user - only as root.

Do I have to rename /home/<user>, delete <user>, then re-define it as a new user and restore its home directory?
Or is there a better way?

 - Dan