WSJ Contest — Friday, November 17, 2023

Grid: 11 minutes; Meta: 11 minutes 


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

This meta goes to eleven

This meta goes to eleven

This week we’re looking for a movie of the 1980s. There were five horizontal theme entries, each containing multiple AMPs:

  • [Massage a bunch of eels’ scalps?]: SH(AMP)OOL(AMP)REYS
  • [Shrimp dish served in a dining hall?]: C(AMP)USSC(AMP)I
  • [New marketing push from Moët & Chandon?]: CH(AMP)AGNEREV(AMP)
  • [Reason Dracula dropped out halfway through the marathon?]: V(AMP)IRECR(AMP)
  • [Award-winning philatelist of western Florida?]: T(AMP)AST(AMP)CH(AMP)
WSJ Contest Solution – 11.19.23

WSJ Contest Solution – 11.19.23

There were eleven AMPs, leading to our contest solution: the classic 1980s mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, where Nigel Tufnel famously said, “These go to eleven.” I’m always down for a Spinal Tap-themed meta (or really anything Spinal Tap-related). Mike Shenk constructed a meta last year with THISISSPINALTAP as the center entry. Some Googling revealed that there were a few SPINAL TAP-themed crosswords on Nigel Tufnel Day (11/11/11), including one by Brendan Quigley, who impressively constructed an 11×11 grid, featuring both MARSHALLAMP and NIGELTUFNEL as 11-character entries. Solvers: please share eleven thoughts. Or eleven favorite Spinal Tap quotes.


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27 Responses to WSJ Contest — Friday, November 17, 2023

  1. Ellen Nichols says:

    I got it the day after I solved the grid. Just had to verify the date for the movie. A fun answer.

  2. Eric H says:

    “This is Spinal Tap” is one of my favorite movies, so I had a lot of fun with this one.

    In retrospect, I can’t believe that (A) I didn’t notice all the AMPs as I was filling in the grid and that (B) having filled in the grid and highlighted all the amps, I had to actually count the damn things to get the answer.

    I’m not going to pad this comment with 11 quotes, but I will share my favorite bit of dialogue, which my husband and I quote all the time:

    David St. Hubbins: It’s such a fine line between stupid, and uh . . .
    Nigel Tufnel: Clever.
    David St. Hubbins: Yeah, and clever.

    Matt Gafney, this puzzle was definitely on the right side of the line. Thanks for brightening my Friday.

    Conrad, your fans want to know: How long did it really take you to solve the puzzle and the meta?

  3. Baroness Thatcher says:

    I don’t have eleven thoughts or eleven Spinal Tap quotes – never saw the movie. However, this puzzle is very similar to another Gaffney masterpiece from March 13, 2020. The puzzle prompt was “A Beatles Song. The mechanism 5 theme answers containing a total of eleven “NA”s.

    The answer? Hey Jude

    The puzzle title? Wait for it . . . .

    These go to Eleven.

    Coincidence? Or just part of his cunning plan?

  4. jjl says:

    “There was a stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.”

  5. EP says:

    Pretty tough if you’re not familiar with Spinal Tap.

    If you want to assist in AI research, do you think that AI will ever be able to solve a meta like this? Reply ‘+1’ if yes, ‘-1’ if no. Sam will appreciate it.

    • BarbaraK says:

      Ever is a very long time

    • Conrad says:

      No AI needed. Google “Amp 11”

    • Eric H says:

      You don’t need AI to solve it.

      I did a DuckDuckGo search on “amp 11 movie”and this was the first hit:

      I was interested to read about other “up to 11” usages that predate “Spinal Tap” by decades.

      Sure, it was easy for me to get the answer because I know the movie. But the idiom is so well-known that I don’t think it’s essential to have seen “Spinal Tap.”

      • EP says:

        Interesting. My own ignorance of Spinal Tap blinded me to the reality that it was such a popular cultural reference…ChatGPT also spit it right out. No doubt the (space) aliens will find this pretty handy in blending right in when they infiltrate our ranks…

        The 11 ‘amps’ jumped right out at you, so if you just plugged that into Duck, Chat (or the like), should it count as a ‘solo solve’? And yes, I do know that only MGWCC registers ‘solo solves’, but still think it’s a valid question.

  6. Frances Boltz says:

    Never heard of the movie. From description on IMDB, glad I never saw it.

  7. Mike says:

    How much more black could the squares between the crossword entries be?

  8. JC says:

    I got this answer only because I read some of the comments and then pieced it together. I saw the movie many years ago and it made no impression on me but I am aware of the phrase being subsumed into popular culture.

    I am not a fan of this type of meta that the answer isn’t spelled out somewhere in the grid where one can obtain positive confirmation. I think it’s an example of the pervasive elitist attitude of these puzzles that seem to be constructed for the amusement of other constructors.

  9. Neal says:

    I was torn between two answers I didn’t love: Sleepaway CAMP, celebrating its 40th anniversary of release last week, and Pump Up the Volume, one of my wife’s favorite movies from that era (a movie that came out in 1990, which we all know is actually a year in the 80’s. Discuss). As I shared my possible answers with my wife, to get her take, she gently but firmly shoved me in the right direction with a simple question that ended with: “…and how many AMPs are in the puzzle, dear?”
    That’s when I realized it went to 11.
    Saucy Matt, you’re a naughty one

  10. PJ says:

    This one was easy for me and I see how it could be difficult/unsolvable for others. Searching for “11 amps” is not helpful although searching for “11 amps movie” gives the answer.

    I celebrate the movie on my birthday Feb. 11, or “to eleven”

  11. Barnyard says:

    Well, sadly, per Nigel I was on the wrong side of the clever line. I love all the Christopher Guest movies and certainly knew the amp goes to 11 line, but I saw all the repetition of amp and decided the movie had to be Groundhog Day. Duh. Great puzzle. Dopey guess.

  12. Silverskiesdean says:

    What about “Short Circuit”??
    No explanation necessary

  13. Garrett says:

    I never saw the movie, so the number of times AMP appeared in the grid didn’t strike me as important. I ended up submitting SpaceCamp.

    However, after reading the comments here I tried googling: 11 amps movie

    My first hit was an Ebert review of the movie.

  14. billkatz says:

    I actually saw Spinal Tap in concert in San Francisco. I guess that makes me a parody of a rock concert audience member. I had the meta before finishing the grid.

  15. Conrad says:

    My favorite Spinal Tap quote (It’s hard to pick one): You can’t really dust for vomit.

    The entire movie was ad-libbed, which is mind blowing.

  16. Seattle DB says:

    Matt Gaffney is one of my favorite constructors because his puzzles are humorous and fun! And if I had gotten to the puzzle before the cut-off point for submitting answers, I definitely “coulda been a contender” for the WSJ mug!

  17. Beth says:

    amps + AC/DC = Let There Be Rock. way off again

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