Dancers known for their street-style wardrobe / FRI 12-6-13 / Harper Lee's given name / Cold war defense system / Home of Sunset Paradise / Wine cassis drinks / Mikado weapon
Friday, December 6, 2013
Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski
Relative difficulty: Easy
Word of the Day: HARAJUKU GIRLS (51A: Dancers known for their Japanese street-style wardrobe) —
The Harajuku Girls are four Japanese and Japanese American backup dancersfeatured in stage shows and music videos for Gwen Stefani during her solopop/R&B/dance-record phase. The women also act as an entourage at Stefani's public appearances. // The Harajuku Girls are Maya Chino ("Love"), Jennifer Kita ("Angel"), Rino Nakasone-Razalan ("Music") and Mayuko Kitayama ("Baby"). The name of the group is a reference to Harajuku, a neighborhood of Tokyo. The stage names of the women are derived from Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby., which was the name of her first album as well as her clothing brand. (wikipedia)
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HARAJUKU GIRLS, though. I thought perhaps it was some major phenomenon of which I was simply unaware. But as phenomena go, it seems pretty damn minor: they're just Gwen Stefani's back-up dancers? That is a rather slim claim to fame. I wonder what percentage of the solving audience knew who these dancers were before today. I can't imagine that many (note: many of my friends apparently have at least kind of sort of heard of these GIRLS). You gotta love how it looks in the grid, but I'm scratching my head a bit here re: puzzle-worthiness. Every constructor I know has had Far More Famous entries rejected because the editor hadn't heard of them and assumed solvers wouldn't have either. Can't imagine more than 5% of "average" solvers (whoever they are) actually knowing this answer. Why it's not bothering me more, I don't know. Possibly because it's pretty and its crosses seemed fair to me (assuming you knew KIRS, which … I have no perspective on. It's a common enough crossword answer, but I've never seen it outside crosswords) (53D: Wine-and-cassis drinks). My female blogging friend tells me that women, esp. those who follow fashion, are much more likely to know HARAJUKU GIRLS than men. I cannot dispute that. It's entirely possible that I am on a lonely island called "People Who Didn't Know This Answer" and you are all at home right now watching Gwen Stefani videos.
I also didn't know DEW LINE (47A: Cold war defense system). I am told that I "always" hate answers that I don't know, so … I guess I hate this one. Only I don't. It's a thing I've never heard of that I'm happy enough to learn primarily because it was crossed so fairly. Funny How That Works. DEW stands for "Distant Early Warning" and was a system of radar stations in the arctic designed to detect any Soviet incursions during the Cold War. Or so wikipedia tells me. Despite the fact that DEW LINE sat atop HARAJUKU GIRLS and I knew neither, the puzzle, as I say, was quite tractable. There are definite short-fill issues here and there (SE corner in particular, with its NELLE / SNEE / AGENA mash-up). But the long answers are pretty much aces, and there's even some good stuff in the shorter answers, like CANCUN and "GLORY BE!" and GOOF ON.
Why would SIRI be "Karen" in Australia!? That is my favorite fun fact of the day. Is SIRI some horrible slang term down there? Is it clinically unbearable to hear anyone actually say "SIRI" w/ an Australian accent? And "Karen?!" Is no one actually named "Karen" Down Under? Does it not get confusing? "Where are we?" "Ask Karen." "Who the *&%& is Karen?" "She's in your phone, MATE(S)." Fosters wallabies Uluru. The end.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
P.S. definitive proof that editing has gotten terribly lax—can we all agree that AIS (58D: Grafton's "___ for Alibi") is the worst entry in the grid? Yes? Good. Can we also agree that it is entirely unnecessary, and that anyone looking at that entry could fix it, in at least two ways, right now, just by changing the first or last letter of that entry? Yes? Good. I mean, you see this, right? I'm not just "being grumpy" and "snarky," right? Yes. Right.