Many cultural products seem meant not to amuse, or enlighten, or move us, but instead to invite us to congratulate ourselves—for being sufficiently educated, or sensitive, or hip, or whatever, to enjoy or understand them. Music made of noise, or sculpture of excrement, pleases not in itself (almost no one likes noise or excrement), but as an invitation to savor our superiority to the common herd that is offended by it.
You can't do this with crosswords: to be solvable they have to make sense. But you can still invite self-congratulation—for knowing some new slang phrase or internet meme, or for enjoying some person, place, or thing that only the enlightened enjoy. The fun is not so much in the theme, or in the process of solving, as in the supposed bafflement of the out-of-it solver in the face of these modish allusions.
Now, far be it from me to protest. Harmless sources of pleasure are so few in this sad world that I don’t begrudge anyone this one, such as it is. I mention it only to point out that you won’t find it in my puzzles, because I don't even know what the cool kids are doing, and because I just want everybody to be happy. In today's puzzle I provide a crossword version of another kind of art that seeks only to please: the simple, pretty, obvious landscape painting at which every undergraduate is taught to sneer.