MGWCC #530

crossword 4:20
meta nope yup 


hello and welcome to episode #530 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Did You Hear How It Started?”. for this week 4 puzzle, matt challenges us to find the three-letter entry in the grid that could be an eighth theme entry.. okay. what are the first seven theme answers?

  • {*Sidewalk stuff} CONCRETE.
  • {*Split second} INSTANT.
  • {*Amusing little story} ANECDOTE.
  • {*Custard cousin} GELATO.
  • {*Many a third baseman’s error} OVERTHROW.
  • {*It holds the sands of time} HOURGLASS.
  • {*660-mile river of central Africa} UBANGI.

i spent a good bit of the weekend working on this, some of it in collaboration with andy, and we have gotten it at the eleventh hour, which is to say at 11 am eastern, which is to say the 96th hour. (very nearly the 97th, considering the email arrived slightly earlier than usual on friday.) i won’t go over all of our dead ends, but here are some things we noted:

the title suggests looking at the starts of the theme answers, or rather, listening to the starts of the theme answers. from the start, i could not really let go of the fact that UBANGI starts with “oo” and that is also how you pronounce U THANT, whose surname is in the grid at 54d. similarly CONCRETE starts homophonically to SAL khan of khan academy, whose first name is in the grid at 70a. but the other theme answers don’t really work here.

there are a very large number of first names in the grid, which is sort of tied into “start”, but i think we’d want there to be 7 or 8 rather than 10 or 12 or however many there actually are.

at times i toyed with the idea that perhaps each *ed answer was related somehow to a non-*ed answer, so that perhaps the grid had 14 (or 16) theme answers instead of 8. i was nudged this way partly by noticing the word count of 80 is pretty high, but the fill is rather clean and for the most part, the clues do not appear to be strikingly forced in any way. i will admit that the clues for {30-___ (tennis score)} ALL and {Give a casual greeting} SAY HEY stuck out—the first because it also suggests LOVE (or 15 or 40) and the second because it’s very surprising to see this phrase without any mention or even implication of willie mays.

at one point i asked andy, looking at the various parts of the grid, which areas look like they are not how you’d fill it if the only theme answers were the seven *ed entries. he replied, and i quite agree, that everything looks fine except for the lower right, where I LOSE and NATAL and ELAH all seemed suboptimal if the only constraint was ANECDOTE. this strongly suggested sending in either SAL or ELF as a hail mary even if we never got unstuck on the meta, which looked for most of the weekend like a very live possibility. that felt like considerably better odds than guessing one of the 22 three-letter entries at random.

in fact, i’m only realizing this just now, but i wonder if matt artificially inflated the word count in the grid to make the odds longer on randomly guessing one of (say) a dozen three-letter answers. that would be pretty sneaky, but he’s been known to be sneaky on these week 4s.

okay, okay. i’ve digressed long enough. here’s how it works:

  • CONCRETE is hard and it starts with a hard C.
  • an INSTANT is short and starts with a short I.
  • an ANECDOTE is short and starts with a short A.
  • GELATO is soft and starts with a soft G.
  • an OVERTHROW is long and starts with a long O.
  • an HOURGLASS is (rather) silent and starts with a silent H.
  • and the UBANGI is long(ish) and starts with a long U.

looking over the three-letter answers, there are a few borderline cases, but the clearly intended answer is {North Pole resident, it’s said} ELF, because elves are short and it starts with a short E. as an extra nudge, the clue points you towards the kind of elf who works with santa, rather than, say, an elf from tolkien who might not be short at all. similarly, the clue for 67d {Part of a baseball uniform} CAP clearly refers to a soft cap, even though hard caps exist (e.g. the cap on a gas tank).

this is a super meta, and i wish i’d had the aha moment—andy was the one who had the epiphany while we were solving together. it’s a very hard one, even though there’s no treasure hunt aspect to it: everything you need to understand the meta is right there in the *ed answers. even the clues aren’t part of the theme. it’s just a subtle connection between the semantic and the phonetic. beautiful stuff.

i cannot see any possible reason to give this puzzle fewer than 5 stars. bravo!

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65 Responses to MGWCC #530

  1. pgw says:

    Sneaky hard for how simple it turns out to be. Like joon I thought early on to ‘listen’ to how each theme answer starts, but didn’t have the aha for quite some time. Can’t really even remember how I got it, but in retrospect it seemed like it should have been easier. I even noticed that all of the starting letters are capable of other pronunciations and still it took a whole nother day to realize ‘oh, that C is hard … just like concrete.’

    Five stars for this hard crossword.

  2. Dan Seidman says:

    I thought of Willie Mays too, and I thought that entry was connected to UBANGI because the gratuitously provided length of the river matched Mays’ famous home run total.

    I wound up guessing PTA because it would have preserved the symmetry.

  3. PatXC says:

    Brilliant meta.
    I had the hard c, long a, etc. a couple of days ago (I teach ESOL at a local library, so that helped). I didn’t get past concrete before discounting that theory. The elf on the shelf seemed like more of a distraction.

  4. Giovanni P. says:

    One star out of spite!!!!

    • Giovanni P. says:

      Seriously though that was not a week 4 with how it was presented. Hourglass=silent is especially arbitrary. Take your medicine Matt, we’re all adults here

      • pgw says:

        I don’t get this comment. An hourglass is indeed silent, notably in comparison to other timepieces that click, chime, beep or whatever. Put together with all the other theme entries – a couple of which were explicitly clued to point out the connection – no one who had spotted the mechanism would abandon it based on hourglass not being sufficiently emblematic of silence. And are you saying it was *harder* than a week four, which in a four-week month is supposed to be the hardest?

    • Giovanni P. says:

      Not medicine, lumps. I still stand that was not a week 4 as clued, and the low solves should attest to that.

      • pgw says:

        The low solves should attest that it was … the hardest possible of the month … which week 4 is, um, supposed to be.

        • Giovanni P. says:

          That was not what I would consider “week 4 hard” though. I’d have to hear from other people’s solving experiences to see where the issue with the low solve rate might be though.

          I was looking at sounds, but couldn’t be bothered to waste time on what seemed to be a way too hard meta, and strangled my streak with OLE.

          People gotta take a lump once in a while though.

          • pgw says:

            Your last line is grade A projection.

            Until Jeffrey Harris misses one, as far as I’m concerned Matt should make them all this hard, no matter what week it is.

            • KZ Condor says:

              100% endorsed (except I would say “… at least this hard”. Why would anyone want *easier* puzzles? It’s not worth solving if it’s not a challenge.

            • Giovanni P. says:

              Don’t use Jeffrey Harris as a metric for difficulty, even as a joke. The week he doesn’t solve one is a week with zero solves.

              But really, at least this meta isn’t busted fundamentally like I first thought it was. I think it needed a little more of a guide to the “letter sound=property” than what we had.

              The frustration is me more trying to immolate myself, since it’s been way too long. And for once, you actually know who the person 1*-ing a puzzle is.

            • pgw says:

              Okay, I guess I didn’t see what you were driving at. Carry on …

            • Giovanni P. says:

              For the record, I may very well be projecting. I don’t even know if this is “trolling” or not, given I was frustrated (like I’m sure many others) with this meta, and seeing the solution doesn’t ease my mind.

              Nothing against you at all. Have a good day.

          • pgw says:

            I really can’t tell whether you think it was harder or easier than a week 4. Are you assuming that everyone else just gave up like you, and that if folks hadn’t given up there would have been 300 correct answers or something? I doubt that in the extreme. It was simple in retrospect but joon, who solves most of these, never saw it on his own and needed help. I, #8 on the leaderboard, stared at it hopelessly for a full day.

            I think the person who needs to learn to take his lumps here is not the constructor.

            • Giovanni P. says:

              It was harder than I might normally expect a week 4 to be.

              And no, I am not assuming everyone else gave up . *I* gave up, I can’t speak for others. I would not be surprised if there were a lot of wrong answer submissions though. The low solve count and possibly the opinions of others could be a demotivator as well, but I don’t know how many people who might have submitted normally didn’t.

            • pgw says:

              Okay, thanks for explaining. It’s hard for mr to understand “harder than I’d expect a week 4” because my expectation on every last week of the month is that it might just be the hardest mgwcc of all time. Which this wasn’t!

            • Giovanni P. says:

              My expectation is based partially on how many people I see solve a puzzle each week. When I saw the low count here, I thought it was either hard or fundamentally broken. It was the former in this case.

              It certainly isn’t a one-star, but I don’t think it’s a five-star like joon suggests. As others have pointed out, there are quite a few rabbit holes in this one. What joon calls “subtle” I call “way too buried”.

              Would it be possible to split the difference and change my 1* to a 3* instead? That feels more like a proper rating than a spite 1*.

              Thanks for the chat pgw. Talking it out helps.

    • Giovanni P. says:

      I’ll see you next week Matt.

  5. Icdogg says:

    I got into a rabbit hole mispronouncing the beginnings of the down answers

    Gel+O+hour+u could conceivably be “hello how are you”. I was convinced the across entries answered the question somehow.

  6. Toby says:

    This one really left me exhausted — I followed all the rabbit holes described, and some others (for example, noting BANG and CONk in some of the themes) all to no avail, and like you, needed some guidance to solve. (Confessing here — I wish I could put an asterisk after my name on the leaderboard when I don’t solve entirely on my own.) Very clever puzzle requiring some Hard C Concentration.

  7. Marty D says:

    I used the seven entries of seven letters or longer, and then sounded out the beginning of each:
    I phone app
    CON Crete
    IN stant
    HALE Irwin
    OVER throw
    AN ecdote
    HOUR glass

    Result- I can inhale over an hour. And my answer-TIC.
    Lame, and I realize that a tick doesn’t actually inhale blood, but I thought it was a semi-logical considering the word “hear” in the title.

    • Marty D says:

      Oops. I printed off the result and therefore didn’t notice the asterisks in the clues. Oh well, I give myself a 2.5 for creativity. Friday will come in two days, and this will be forgotten.

  8. Will Nediger says:

    Ooh, that’s clever. I noticed ELAH and tried to connect it to HALE IRWIN for a while, and then forgot about it.

    I also noticed that the cluing for OVERTHROW was unexpected, since there’s a much more common definition of that word. That should have nudged me in the right direction, but instead I got stuck on NAS also being clued in an odd way (I’d personally never do a partial like “N as in Nancy” when the entry also works as a single word/name), and ended up submitting NAS as my hail mary.

  9. Jon says:

    Brilliantly difficult week 4 meta, Matt.

    Out of curiosity, what was the deal with the HALE of HALEIRWIN being the reverse of ELAH in the grid? Also, in the 4 corner of the grid, you had L-shapes of 3-letter words meeting at the ends: CON in the NW corner, END in the NE corner (along w/ LEG nearby), ASS in the SW corner, and ELF in the SE corner. Were both of these by design to help throw people off the meta route?

  10. Joe says:

    The Ubangi is a tributary of the Congo.. major rabbit hole.

  11. Lance says:

    Well, I’m impressed that people got it; my reaction on reading the answer was to say, aloud, “Oh, give me a break.” “CONCRETE starts with a hard C, and concrete is hard” feels like a serious leap in logic. (Disclaimer: with a degree in linguistics, I’ve more or less forgotten as meaningless terms like “hard/soft” and “short/long”, so I don’t think I was ever going to get there.)

    I think the thing that bothers me the most is how many rabbit holes and red herrings there were. I certainly noticed the CON-/KHAN thing (and the start of OVERTHROW in {Opening O…}), and I’ve got no shortage of other wrong paths. The thing that I thought could not possibly be a coincidence, but apparently was, was that if you want to clarify the first letter of a word, you’ll give an “N as in Nancy” indicator–often, with the NATO phonetic alphabet. And here we have:

    * GELATO: G as in GOLF, and behold, 46A is about a golf tournament
    * OVERTHROW: O as in OSCAR, and 63A goes out of its way to mention the Oscar connection
    * HOURGLASS: H as in HOTEL, and 12D, which could be clued in any number of ways, specifically mentions Monopoly revenue
    * UBANGI: U as in UNIFORM, and 67D is about uniforms

    Could I get CHARLIE, ALPHA, and INDIA to work? No. But by the time I had GOLF and OSCAR, it looked like it couldn’t be a coincidence. I submitted BAR, on the grounds that {Statement equivalent to “You win”} was an awfully roundabout clue for I LOSE, but was phrased so that it could also clue BRAVO. Was I happy with this answer? Again, no. But I’d already been down so many irrelevant rabbit holes that I had to commit to something.

    • joon says:

      interesting. when andy said pretty much those exact words (“concrete is hard and starts with a hard C”) to me, i didn’t say “give me a break”; instead, my reaction was “dang, i should’ve thought of that”. i mean, i’d spent the whole weekend thinking about how the starts of the theme answers are pronounced. the title is absolutely spot-on in that regard.

      i don’t have a degree in linguistics, but i have done a lot of crossword puzzles, and i think many of us have seen entries like SOFTG and HARDC in the grid with tricky clues like {Head of Germany?} or {Congressional leader?}. it’s a brilliant idea to turn this crossword trope into a meta.

      i can’t dispute that it was difficult—the numbers speak for themselves. but i feel like it was right there, just waiting to be solved, the whole time. you’re absolutely right that there were rabbit holes upon rabbit holes, but he told us which seven entries to look at and what specific property to consider for them, so … what else could he have done?

      taking a step back, i know i have to be better about letting go of coincidences if they work for only, say, three or four out of seven themers. and it looks like i’m not the only one. but it’s just so hard to not continue to be distracted by them even after i’ve established that they are not going anywhere.

      • ajk says:

        The main thing that helps me get out of these kind of holes is how consistently coherent Matt’s metas are. The number of times I’ve gotten one where I had to make anything other than a very logical leap along the way is either zero or pretty close to zero. Even if I only get halfway done, the steps to the halfway point are clearly correct.

        The correct solutions never feel forced, which helps me to back off when I start trying to force them. With constructors that have less credit built up I think I’d be more likely to say “maybe the meta just isn’t that good and this is what they indented”

        Having said this, I go down all kinds of rabbit holes still. :)

      • BarbaraK says:

        Re letting go of coincidences, from your lips to God’s ears. I get way too attached to my theories. And of course every now and then I drop too soon the one that turns out to be key.

    • Lance says:

      …another thing that only occurs to me belatedly: given the title, I was in fact looking at the sounds at the start of the words. (But, again, I was looking at /k/, not “hard C”.) The sound at the start of “hourglass” is, pretty much by definition, not a silent H, so when I was scouring clues for more things like “Opening O” and “Khan”, I was looking for words that start with /au/, not with “H”. I don’t know if that counts as a weakness of the puzzle, but it certainly makes me no happier with the eventual answer.

      • Jon says:

        That’s an interesting point. The title suggestion the sounds that start the starred fills and the sound for hourglass is the Ou sound. Not sure what type of sound that would be; is Ou short or long or hard or soft?

        So noting the absence of sound is hard to notice when you have to notice not noticing it. Had someone not mentioned to be “the H is silent” I don’t think I would have figured out the route.

        • Lance says:

          The “ou” in “hourglass” is neither “long” nor “short”, because it’s…just not defined in phonics. (See for some descriptions.) Apparently there are five long vowels, five short vowels, and then a bunch of other vowels. There also doesn’t seem to be any name for the vowel sound in “put”, which is not a schwa, and also not a short U (which is pronounced the same as a schwa, really).

          Phonics is, I suppose, a way to guide children into understand what sounds are represented by various letters. It’s not a particularly useful way to describe the sounds of language themselves, unfortunately, which is why I’ve kind of long since forgotten them, and honestly sort of wince whenever I see “LONG I” or “HARD C” as a crossword enry.

  12. Jim Quinlan says:

    Was anyone else led astray by the corners that had ELF / ELF, CON / CON, END / END, and ASS / ASS ? I spent most of my weekend trying to make something of that work!

    • Meg says:

      I saw that! Along with LEG LEG and END END forming corners. Had to give up on it, eventually.
      I thought this was a great meta!! What a great AHA! moment.

    • Mary Ellen Price says:

      Me too.

      I’m tone deaf and I’m phonetically challenged so I was never going to solve this one. I did think to note the beginning sounds of the theme entries but they didn’t ring any bells with me.

  13. LuckyGuest says:

    I didn’t get to start the puzzle until Saturday — away from the computer working/partying at an Irish festival — and jumped on it right away when I got home. I thought of the hard/soft, long/short (and dipthongs and silent letters and and and…) right away, but spent most of that time looking at the crossing entries, hoping that all-but-one had (for example) a hard “G” for the *’d entry, but a soft “G” for its crossing entry; and if that was the case, look for the one 3-letter word that did the same. It didn’t pan out, so I went to sleep and looked at it on Sunday evening (again being away from the computer all day…argh!) and noticed the GELATO (soft/soft) and CONCRETE (hard/hard) and excitedly looked for the rest. When I saw I had hit on the trick, ELF was actually the first 3-letter word I looked at. Loved this one!

  14. Erich Peterson says:

    I thought that this was a great puzzle – very hard, very time consuming to stare at and work out (my wife made me leave the room as I was driving her crazy while constantly sounding out the beginnings of the themers in differing orders…), but very satisfying (for me at least) at the end.

    My biggest rabbit hole was thinking that the title was referring us back to MGWCC 001 – whose answer was CIA. Notice that the 3 *ed across answers start with CIA…

    MGWCC002’s answer was DOH. The 1st 3 *ed down answers start with GOH. Close enough to make me think something had to be lurking there and worth exploring.

    And there I spun my wheels for quite some time.

    Nice puzzle, Matt!

  15. One reason that I think Matt deserves even more credit is for ensuring that the other three-letter answers don’t fit the meta, even after you understand how it works. I and a few others spent a long time trying to figure out why the south part of the grid had THANT/TERP/CAP when THANK/KERR/CAR might have been a bit smoother as fill (and ELF was going to be my desperation guess just because that and SHELF were really the only things forcing ELAH in the grid as far as I could tell). But CAR starts with a hard C, and while ELF still might be a more logical answer overall, you could certainly argue CAR as an alternate answer since it’s a hard object. So I appreciate that he avoided any ambiguity there.

  16. Richard K. says:

    Ooh, I was so close this week! I noticed the hard/soft/long/short/silent letters, but that didn’t seem to lead anywhere, then much, much later thought, “Well, concrete is hard and gelato is soft,” but never put the two ideas together. That’s one of my favorite things about Matt’s metas: you may have all the ingredients, but you also have to combine them properly.

    My shot in the dark was based on noticing that the starts of (most) theme entries could be attached at the front of other grid entries: UBANGI to U THANT; CONCRETE to CON-NED; OVERTHROW to OVER-ALL; INSTANT to INS-OLE; GELATO to GELCAP or GEL PEN; ANECDOTE to AN-TIC. (Couldn’t find one for HOUR. “HOUR TEN” and “HOUR ELEVEN” seemed too weak. I hoped I had just missed one somewhere.) I ended up submitting BAR, as that was the only three-letter entry I found that could be appended to create a reasonable new entry — BARRIO or even BARDOLPH.

    • dbardolph says:

      Thanks for that. How did I manage to do this grid and not catch the BAR/DOLPH thing? It’s not like my name shows up in puzzles all the time…

      As for the meta, I spent a lot of time thinking about the hard/soft/long/short thing, but never managed the required leap. Dang.

  17. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, Joon — 94 correct entries this week.

    Interesting how difficult this one plays, considering that the mechanism isn’t that complicated. As happened with your solve, all you really need to be off to the races is “Concrete starts with a hard C, and concrete is hard.” But making the leap from the first sound to a characteristic of the actual thing the word represents seems to be tricky for our brains (both solvers who tested this one are extremely good at solving metas but needed several hints to get it — although it had a less helpful title in the version they saw).

    • DBraun91 says:

      The hardest week 4s for me are the ones that are the most simple in retrospect. I have a bad habit of overanylzing and leaning too heavily on Google searches on these late month metas. My solve actually came when I was a mile from my printed grid, walking home from work. I saw a stack of bags of concrete in someone’s driveway and thought to myself ( for some reason) “concrete hmmm, it doesn’t become hard until you mix it, oh … HARD” then that was that. I think putting the grid aside after I’ve stared at it for so long may start to be a tactic for my late month solves , takes a lot of the possibility of over thinking away, at least for my brain. Keeps my thoughts simple, especially when the answer is right there in the grid.

    • Lance says:

      I’m curious: what are your criteria for deciding whether a puzzle is or isn’t working? If I had a puzzle that I gave to two strong solvers and neither one could solve it, I’d consider that the puzzle isn’t really reasonably solveable. Even if they solved it with “several hints”, that doesn’t feel to me like it counts as a solve, since subscribers to the puzzle don’t get those hints. (Of course, people obviously did solve this one, though with the title change; did you test it with the title change?)

      So, like, is there a point at which “my testers couldn’t solve this” becomes grounds to not use the puzzle?

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Obviously, you incorporate the useful hints into the puzzle and run it as a Week 4 that 94 solvers got and, overall, enjoyed.

        I’m sorry you didn’t get this one, but that doesn’t make it unfair. Maybe time to move on.

  18. Craig says:

    I had identified the quality of each initial sound and dismissed that out of hand on the basis that their use as descriptors for the items was debatable at best.

    Hourglasses are not per se silent, and the Ubangi is not per se long, even though allusion was made to the length in the clue.

    It just feels inelegant and too reliant on interpretation.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      You saw Concrete/hard, gelato/soft, instant/short, etc., and then ELF/short, but then submitted something else instead? What did you submit?

      • PuzzleCraig says:

        I dismissed it at the level of recognizing each sound as “hard c”, “soft g”, etc. I think I was too distracted by the soft g in “gelato” crossing a hard g in “galore”, etc. to get full traction on the relation to the meanings, although I had noted “silent h” and thought: “That doesn’t have anything to do with hourglasses” and the same for Ubangi.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          “The Meta That Got Away.” Next time definitely look at the other answers, you obviously would’ve gotten it if you had.

    • Gwinns says:

      I felt the opposite way, that the cluing was pretty elegant.

      I kept going back to the clues– why was ANECDOTE an “Amusing little story” when “Amusing story” would do just fine? Similarly, why is the OVERTHROW specifically from a third baseman?

      With the exception of HOURGLASS, I thought the clues acted very well as confirmers when there was any hint of ambiguity.

  19. theodreiser says:

    I thought this was a phenomenal meta. Bravo, Matt!

    The aha moment was wonderful and came only when I listed the themers and wrote out hard-c, soft-g, etc., next to them. Soft gelato was the lightbulb over the head for me. Almost submitted PIT as cherry pits are hard, but was able to control that post-aha excitement to carefully consider alternatives (and the fact there’s no such thing as a hard-p). Difficult, satisfying, and totally week-4. So glad next week is a week-1! :)

  20. john says:

    I got this rather quickly and when i saw how few people had sussed it assumed that a) Something was wrong with the tally mechanism of the web site or b) Folks were off at a Xword tourney joon spoke of recently. Since this came to me me so readily i can’t pinpoint where the difficulty was except by reading other’s experience. I am a middling solver at best these days so this one just fell in my wheelhouse somehow. It was a great meta though and in retrospect probably second only to the famous “Elevator” meta in satisfaction of the solve.

    • john says:

      Oh heck. No one will see this but i have to correct my own comment, it was the famous “Escalator” puzzle.

  21. Qatsi says:

    Arrgh. I’d gotten as far as writing down the list of starred entries – along with the “hard C”/”short I”/etc. indicators – but couldn’t get past trying to make sense out of the letters instead of the qualifiers.

  22. jefe says:

    Concrete is also a [*Custard cousin]. I couldn’t get past that and the crossing trigrams as mentioned above.

  23. BarbaraK says:

    I loved this meta. And not being a constructor, I didn’t notice anything off about that lower right corner. In fact I was specifically looking for something weird to give me a hint and didn’t find it, it all seemed so smooth.

    I agree with Toby that I’d like to have a check box for “all by myself” or “with a little help from my friends”. Matt could give bonus points to the soloists or partial credit to the teams or just ignore it and let the puzzle gods send the pens as they will. Would be interesting to know though and those who solve every puzzle with no help at all deserve an extra shoutout.

  24. Mary Flaminio says:

    Not even close. But learned some things. Thanks. Knew it would be above my talents.–M

  25. Richard K. says:

    I spent some embarrassing time in another blind alley. With one tiny clockwise rotation (U to C) the initials of the theme entries would read CHICAGO from left to right. That and the title had me scouring the puzzle for any references to cows, lanterns, or Mrs. O’Leary. (There was also that tantalizing triplet of CONGO, CHICO, and CAN I GO.)

  26. bwouns says:

    There seems to be a lot of words hidden in the starred entries that allude to how things start.
    “With a bang” – uBANGi
    “On the dot” – anecDOTe
    “On the hour” – HOURglass
    “Start over” – OVERthrow
    Some requiring anagramming
    “Late start” – gELATo
    “Rough start” – HOURGlass

    I was also distracted by the first two clues containing the words ‘Opening’ and ‘noises’

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