WSJ Contest — Friday, October 20, 2023

Grid: 20 minutes; Meta: three minutes 


Matt Gaffney’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Just Stop” — Conrad’s writeup.

This week we’re looking for a classic TV show. There were six thematic entries. Each formed a television show when adding the final missing (ninth) letter:

WSJ Contest – 10.22.23

WSJ Contest – 10.22.23

  • [Disney Channel sitcom about a college that teaches dancing?]: SHAKEITU(P)
  • [Fox drama about gloomy Tottenham coach Postecoglou?]: DARKANGE(L)
  • [NBC drama about Mr. Damone in southern Florida?]: MIAMIVIC(E) 
  • [Starz comedy about investors celebrating stock gains?]: PARTYDOW(N)
  • [NBC sitcom about a gaming console missing its interior parts?]: EMPTYNES(T)
  • [Classic CBS sitcom about film director Besson?]: ILOVELUC(Y)

The missing ninth letters spelled PLENTY. I pondered classic TV shows, and as a Gen-X-er: Eight is Enough, our contest solution, popped into my brain. The answer was cemented when I noticed that each themer had eight letters, which was enough for this puzzle.

It played easy for me, but I’m not sure how someone who had never heard of Eight is Enough would find a path to identifying the TV show in question. Solvers: if you’re in that camp, please let me know how you solved (or didn’t) in the comments.

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32 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, October 20, 2023

  1. jefe says:

    didn’t make it to the last step. We saw PLENTY could also work as a clue for 3D, HEAPS, in place of [A bunch], so we guessed The Brady Bunch.

  2. Barry Miller says:

    And the themers were all one letter short, because eight is not enough. Also, the center answer is cap. I got lucky, because I’ve never seen that show. I sit here relieved.

  3. Seth Cohen says:

    Obviously I figured that PLENTY was the name of some show I’d never heard of. But googling amounted to nothing. But I had no clue as to what the answer might be, so I just submitted PLENTY. Never heard of “Eight is Enough” and never would have figured that out in a million years. No amount of googling random classic shows would have ever gotten me to the answer.

    Odd meta. Almost every meta leads you directly to spelling the answer, or else is absolutely wildly obvious what the answer should be. Here, the last step to get the answer is super tenuous, and borderline impossible if you’ve never heard of the show. How could I have gotten it without scanning a long list of every classic tv show ever and scrutinizing each title for some bit of word play that made sense?

    That’s not to say it’s a bad meta. I just can’t understand how it would ever be possible unless you really really knew that show well.

    • Seth Cohen says:

      Out of curiosity, I googled “list of classic tv shows” to see if I would have had any chance of coming across Eight is Enough. And…nope. Every list I checked didn’t have it (they were all like “100 best classic tv shows” or similar). The only list I found it on was an exhaustive alphabetical list of basically every show ever.

      • EP says:

        I had much the same experience, and echo those comments…and I HAVE heard of Eight is Enough, but didn’t regularly watch it.

  4. Bill in SoCal says:

    That is one huge leap of faith that I never could have made. I’m 70 and have never seen that show. Glad I didn’t spend any more time on this.

  5. GTIJohnny says:

    I figured RHODA would be PLENTY enough.

  6. Eric H says:

    Damn! I really thought I had this one.

    The PLENTY letters were almost immediately obvious. So I looked for shows with “plenty” in the title and found none.

    Like jefe, I noticed that PLENTY could be mapped onto the grid in place of HEAPS, so I looked for a show with that. Nothing.

    The next day, it occurred to me to check synonyms of PLENTY. One of the ones listed was “full house,” so that’s what I submitted. (I never noticed that the theme answers were all eight letters.)

    I come from a family of seven kids, and as a child, I was a sucker for any movie or TV show about a large family. “The Brady Bunch,” ‘The Partridge Family” and “Eight Is Enough” — I watched them all.

    • Zazoo says:

      My favorite part of this contest crossword is the title, “Just Stop!” If I had been smarter, I would have just stopped at one; one is enough!

      • Eric H says:

        My mistake was forgetting to look at the title when PLENTY by itself didn’t give me the answer. Maybe I would’ve taken a second look at the letter counts in the theme answers.

  7. Bob says:

    Probably not a coincidence: the answer for 8 down is “Charles,” and “Charles in Charge” was the spinoff show from “Eight is Enough.”

    • jbeck says:

      Willie Aames was on both shows, but I don’t think Charles in Charge was a spinoff of Eight is Enough.

      I could be wrong.

  8. RoLev says:

    After a long struggle, I came up with “Three’s A Crowd” (a 1980’s sitcom spun off from Three’s Company). I noticed that “Plenty” is an alternative answer for the clue at 3 Down: “a bunch” (the grid answer of which was “heaps”), so “Plenty” pointed me to 3 Down. “Plenty,” “a bunch” and “heaps,” in the context of a group of people, are all synonymous with “crowd.” Therefore, Three (Down) is A Crowd led me to Three’s A Crowd, our contest solution (if I had my way).

    • Eric H says:

      Next time the answer is a TV show, you might want to think about how long your answer ran. I didn’t recognize “Three’s a Crowd,” probably because it only lasted one season.

      My solution was less logical than yours; I submitted “Full House.” Wrong answer, but at least it was a hit!

  9. Burak says:

    Yeah this wasn’t gonna happen for me. I first though PLENTY was meant to direct us to “A bunch” -> Brady Bunch. Then I thought that’d be too weak, and I noticed more almost-synonyms for Plenty in the clues (hundreds, bunch, much) but that didn’t go anywhere either.

    My Hail Mary was “Bonanza”, which kinda means plenty so I was hoping that I’d missed a step somewhere. I did miss one indeed! Hard to deduce Eight is Enough if you haven’t heard of it -like me- before, and it doesn’t pop up on classic TV show lists either.

  10. carolynchey says:

    I got it this week! I briefly got sidetracked by 3 down (HEAPS) but when that didn’t pan out, I concentrated on other synonyms for PLENTY. EIGHT IS ENOUGH (though I never watched the show, I had heard of it) was confirmed for me by the puzzle’s title, JUST STOP. This suggested that we could STOP after eight letters for each themer and still have “PLENTY” (ENOUGH) to get the answer.

    • mkmf says:

      Same. JUST STOP was a strong and fun confirmation.

    • Jeff says:

      I got there the same way. Plenty -> Enough. I have to say the Full House answer is pretty good and the right number of letters.

    • Garrett says:

      I felt that plenty had to be a stand-in for enough, and immediately recalled the show. But that felt like more of a leap of intuition than a solve.

      When I mention that to a friend, he pointed out the letter count in each unfulfilled answer, and that nailed it for me.

  11. green eggs and spam says:

    Yeah I found PLENTY but I’ve never heard of Eight is Enough. I wondered if I was missing something but I guess this week’s just wasn’t in my wheelhouse.

  12. Joe says:

    Never heard of the show, but noticed each answer was eight letters missing a ninth. Googled “tv show nine” and “tv show eight” and found Eight is Enough which seemed to fit the theme.

  13. Neal says:

    I saw that JUST STOP was eight letters, just like the answers, so clearly the answer had to be eight letters right? That didn’t pan out.
    I also considered the 3 Down clue leading me to THE BRADY BUNCH, but that seemed off too. Luckily I am a Gen X-er who knows almost every TV show from my childhood and watched plenty of EIGHT IS ENOUGH, which aired after HAPPY DAYS and LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY so how could I not watch it too? (with only 12 channels, we did tend to stay on one channel).

    • Eric H says:

      “[W]ith only 12 channels”?

      Try living with two. Until my dad put an antenna on the roof around 1970, we could reliably get only two VHF stations (CBS and NBC).

      • Seattle DB says:

        Great story, Eric! In the early 60’s, my family of eight kids didn’t have much money. We had one B&W TV that had a picture but no sound, and another TV that had sound but no picture. My Dad put them side by side and told us kids to enjoy the six TV stations that we could receive.

        • Eric H says:

          Your dad sounds about as fond of TV as mine.

          We never had a color TV until the mid 1970s, when my grandparents gave us their old one. And the main reason my dad put the antenna on the roof of our house in Vermont was that he discovered a treacly easy-listening FM station that he couldn’t pick up at home.

  14. Mister G. says:

    This was one of these rare times where being “of a certain age” was actually a good thing, and I got the answer pretty much without solving.

  15. Simon says:

    I submitted Bonanza too. One definition is “a large amount of something desirable“ — made sense to me. But I see now the other meaning of plenty is basta.

  16. Paul says:

    I got the word plenty, like everyone. Then I realized that the puzzle title, “Stop It,” could also mean “Enough” when someone is annoying. So, with two forms of enough I submitted the answer. I totally missed the eight letters in the main answers.

  17. AmyL says:

    I was looking for one letter that would end PLENTY to make the name of a tv show. (Plentye: about a blended family of Eastern Europeans?) I thought it would fit the pattern of the others. I entered “Plenty” but I knew it was wrong.

  18. GenX says:

    The good ol days when we watched whatever drivel the networks forced on us. I got the answer and know that I saw the show, but I can’t tell you a single memorable thing about it.

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