June 30, 2022


Constructor: Erik Agard

Editor: Erik Agard

Theme Answers:
NEPTUNE FROST (3D: Musical sci-fi film set in Rwanda)
DUFFEL (36A: Something to carry things in)
FORTUNE COOKIE (14D: Confection popularized in California in the early 1900s)
SATCHEL (42A: Something to carry things in)
OPPORTUNE TIME (9D: Suitable moment)
CLUTCH (48A: Something to carry things in)

Theme synopsis: Each vertical theme answer contains the word TUNE. In each case, the word TUNE is sitting atop - i.e. carried by - a horizontal theme answer with the clue [Something to CARRY things in].

Things I learned:
  • NEPTUNE FROST (3D: Musical sci-fi film set in Rwanda) NEPTUNE FROST is an Afrofuturist movie set in a Rwandan village made of computer parts. The movie premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, and was released in the United States earlier this month. NEPTUNE FROST is described as being "set between states of being - past and present, dream and waking life, colonized and free, male and female, memory and prescience." In the movie, Cheryl Isheja and Elvis Ngabo play lovers known as the titular NEPTUNE.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • MONET (1A: "Jaguar" singer Victoria) and SPOT (52A: Leopard marking) Jaguar is Victoria MONÉT's EP released in 2020. The singer-songwriter is currently working on Jaguar Pt. 2. My cat, Willow, has been complaining that there hasn't been a cat-related clue in the puzzle for a couple of weeks (since June 16). I decided I'd better take advantage of these clues mentioning
    Willow making herself cozy

    the big cats jaguar and leopard, to share a cat photo. One of the things Willow often does while I'm writing the blog (after she tires of walking in front of the computer monitor and blocking my view), is to paw on the closet door in my office. She will do this until I open it a crack, allowing her to wander in and inspect the closet's contents. Occasionally she'll settle in for a nap in the closet. Was that too OFF-TOPIC (17A: Irrelevant to the subject at hand)?
  • LEO (46A: Aug. 20 birth sign) This clue made me happy. August 20 is my birthday, making me a LEO. (Thank you, Erik.😊) I didn't quite GUFFAW (7D: Loud laugh), but the clue did make me smile.
  • FORTUNE COOKIE (14D: Confection popularized in California in the early 1900s) Although a FORTUNE COOKIE is a popular dessert served in Chinese restaurants in the United States, the cookies did not originate in China. The exact origin of the FORTUNE COOKIE is unknown, but it may have Japanese American roots. There's even a difference of opinion about who popularized the FORTUNE COOKIE. Was it Makoto Hagiwara (Japanese Tea Garden) in San Francisco, or David Jung (Hong Kong Noodle Company) in Los Angeles? We can at least agree that the FORTUNE COOKIE was popularized in California.
  • OTTER (18D: Asian small-clawed ___) The Asian small-clawed OTTER is native to South and Southeast Asia, where it lives in freshwater wetlands and mangrove swamps. The Asian small-clawed OTTER are the smallest of the OTTER species, and are considered a vulnerable species, threatened by habitat loss.

    Geography review:

    • PHI (15A: The Sixers of Eagles, on scoreboards) The PHIladephia 76ers, also referred to as the Sixers, are an NBA team. The PHIladelphia Eagles are an NFL team.
    • ST. PAUL (16A: Capital of Minnesota) ST. PAUL, Minnesota is located on the Mississippi River. Across the Mississippi River from ST. PAUL is the city of Minneapolis. Together, ST. PAUL and Minneapolis are known as the Twin Cities.
    • KEA (57A: Mauna ___ (sacred place for Native Hawaiians)) It was just a couple of weeks ago I talked about Mauna KEA and Mauna Loa, two of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawai'i. In Hawaiian religion, all five of the volcanoes forming Hawai'i are sacred. As Mauna KEA's summit is the highest of the five, it is considered the most sacred.
    • USSR (21D: World's largest country from 1922 to 1991) While it existed, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) spanned much of Eurasia.
    • LAOS (37D: Country whose flag has a white circle in the middle) The flag of LAOS has three horizontal stripes. The top and bottom stripes are red, and are half the height of the center stripe, which is blue. In the center of the blue stripe is a white circle, signifying the unity of LAOS. 
    My actual comment when I discovered that the theme was more than simply theme answers containing the word TUNE: "Oh, that's clever." Such a fun added layer to have each TUNE being carried by some sort of tote. All of that theme material places a lot of constraints on the grid. Even so, the non-theme-related fill is more than SO-SO (47A: Just OK)...one might even say it's "SUHWEET!" (29A: "Noice!") Thank you, Erik, for this puzzle that was a delightful way to start my Thursday.


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