Fatty tuna part at sushi restaurant / THU 9-1-16 / Tuscan city famous for horse races / Old channel with country music videos / Having variable identity as suggested by four squares in this puzzle

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Constructor: Ben Tausig

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: GENDER-FLUID (37A: Having a variable identity, as suggested by four squares in this puzzle) — four squares can be either an "F" or an "M"

Theme answers:
  • ROOM / MAKE — ROOF / FAKE (1A: Part of a house / 4D: Fabricate)
  • MUSTY / MESS UP — FUSTY / FESS UP (5A: Old-seeming / 5D: Reveal a secret, maybe)
  • MATE / PREMIX — FATE / PREFIX (61A: Topic to ask a fortuneteller about / 45D: It's combined at the beginning)
  • MIRE / SAME — FIRE / SAFE (67A: Tough stuff to walk through / 60D: Word that can precede sex) 
Word of the Day: Willie SUTTON (47D: Bank robber Willie who co-wrote "Where the Money Was") —
William Francis "Willie" Sutton, Jr. (June 30, 1901 – November 2, 1980) was an American bank robber. During his forty-year criminal career he stole an estimated $2 million, and he eventually spent more than half of his adult life in prison and escaped three times. For his talent at executing robberies in disguises, he gained two nicknames, "Willie the Actor" and "Slick Willie". Sutton is also known as the namesake of Sutton's law, although he denied originating it. (wikipedia)
• • •

In ascending square number order, I had MFFF. I wonder what others had. The question is probably at least partially tainted for many people, who will have realized before finishing what the gimmick was. Still, I'm curious what people's, uh, tendencies were. This puzzle got a *lot* of hype. The house blog tweeted:


And I got interviewed by Slate about it (article here). I don't understand the hype, and I think the fact that there *is* hype shows you how behind-the-times and stale the NYT has been of late. This is a "Schrödinger"-type puzzle (where two different letters work for the same square—the 1996 election-day CLINTON / BOBDOLE crossword is probably the most famous iteration of this theme)—this is cool but not new. It's really only the revealer, the central answer, that makes the puzzle particularly contemporary and noteworthy. There's the added bonus of having QUEER be clued in reference to sexuality (as opposed to "oddness") (55D: Part of L.G.B.T.Q.), but none of this feels terribly boundary-pushing. Don't get me wrong, I really like the concept, but it plays like an easy themeless with good, not great, fill. I solved the puzzle early, with Ben's original (i.e. the pre-edited) clues, and I liked those better than the NYT's version, but that's hardly surprising, since I like the puzzle Ben edits (American Values Club Crossword) much better than the NYT, on average.


If this is true:



... it's astonishing. How is that even possible? What year is it? Again, the puzzle is clever, but the NYT doesn't get points for coming around to the acknowledgment of queerness / gender fluidity so belatedly. Indie puzzles have acknowledged and played around with and built entire puzzles around LGBTQ topics for years. I'm glad the NYT is warming up to the concept of inclusivity, but tick tock. Further, to get technical for a sec, having squares that toggle to one of two options (i.e. between binary elements) is not very "fluid." Also, that damned "F" in the revealer is bugging the hell out of me. Why won't it toggle!? C'mon, SURF. Change! Make SURM Great Again (for the first time)! GENDER-MLUID people, unite!


The only trouble I had with this puzzle was SUTTON (both Ben's and the NYT's clues referred to people I'd never heard of) (47D: Bank robber Willie who co-wrote "Where the Money Was") (Ben had [Percy of civil rights activism]). And then the clue on TORO was baffling to me (16A: Fatty tuna part, at a sushi restaurant), and LOW ART was slow to come (11D: Kitsch, e.g.) (in Ben's version, the clue referred to porn). This was a clever, enjoyable puzzle, but not as controversial as some seem to think it is, and certainly not worthy of any aren't-we-progressive self-congratulation on the Times' part.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. apparently the gimmick eluded many people, with some expecting the "X" squares to ... do something.

P.P.S. in an awesomely unintentionally sexist turn of events, AcrossLite (my solving software) only recognized the grid as "correct" if you filled in an "M" (or an "MF").

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

136 comments:

kitshef 12:08 AM  

M/F&A will be turning cartwheels over this one, U betcha.

Schroedingered M/FUSTY early on, collapsed it to FUSTY based on the down, then had to un-collapse it when I got to the reveal.

In order, MFFM for me. Nice that it was two Ms and two Fs.

The non-fluid F in FLUID is a weensy flaw.

jae 12:13 AM  

Easy-medium for me but I did spend some time finding the Schrodinger squares after I finished. No real problems and just one erasure, DuckY before DANDY.

Been on to the Snake River clues ever since the clue/answer Snake carving?/Hell's Canyon.

@Rex - ascending square number order FFMM

Liked this one a lot!

Z 12:13 AM  

Fusty. Otherwise all Ms. Liked this a lot.

Also, as a general rule, somebody does something right the appropriate response is "thank you," not "about time."

Matt 12:27 AM  

MMFM

Floregonian 12:29 AM  

MFMF for me. I got a LOT of this puzzle wrong, which threw me sideways, but that still happens to me late in the week. Flew through the American Values that came out today, but that puzzle—as has been made clear a billion times on this blog and others—tends to skew younger, and relative to the NYT solving crowd, I'm "younger" at 42.

I like EQUUS and ODYSSEY and STOWE and DANTE in a puzzle, but I was a lit major. Hated reading Dante (even though I still appreciate seeing him in a puzzle) and loved Homer. I don't know if that's still true, but it was true when I read both of them as a younger man.

My wife found out today that she's super allergic to RAGWEED, so I can't wait to show her that in the paper tomorrow morning.

I enjoyed this, but definitely not my favorite puzzle of the week.

@Z as a general rule, when somebody does something right but they do it super late . . . like, crazy stupid ridiculous late . . . you're still right. The magnanimous thing is to say "thank you." But the honest truth is, it's also about time. So, hey, thanks NYT. It's about time.

Pete 12:31 AM  

For perhaps the first time in my solving experience I checked the solution to see if there were any cis-Ms or cis-Fs scattered around. I consoled myself that the cis-F was in the reveal, anchoring our GENDERFLUID brethren. Must have been a loving mom.

On picking on the poor NYTimes for being behind the times: yes it's true, but they're hardly the leader-of-the-pack in wrong-headedness. Part of my work is producing digital ads all you fools without Adblock Plus see mucking up your browsing on a continuous basis. I take their artwork, turn it into ads, and hand them off to an ad-distributor. It's a low-end national chain, primarily clothing, and they always have three elements in a rotating ad: cute kid, handsome man, comely woman. These three pics rotate continuously on whatever page you're on, until they get replaced by something equally obnoxious. The problem is, they always produce two sets, one Caucasian, one African American, all carefully targeted with the help of Google, which knows who's naught and who's nice, who's white and who's black, because god forbid that a Caucasian see cute African American kid wearing the same clothes they may buy for little Chad, or show a comely white woman to a black man. They couldn't rotate the 6 pics and skip the racial targeting, toss in some Asians once in a while, for what reason?

Richard Rutherford 12:40 AM  

Willie Sutton is alleged to have responded, when asked why rob banks, "That's where the money is." I am over 65, and in my crowd he's familiar enough, given the clue.

Maxwell 1:13 AM  

Filled in the puzzle without having a clue regarding the theme. Since I put in one of the right answers, I earned a "solved" signal.

Learned what was going on by reading Rex.

John Little 1:18 AM  

MFFM

Not straight, SAME/SAFE sex, QUEER, Cher and Dolly Parton as ICONs. I suspected something going on with the theme before I filled in GENDER FLUID, which was then all the more satisfying.

David 1:22 AM  

Reiterating part of a Twitter thread from tonight, I've got a lot of complicated and interconnected responses to efforts towards greater diversity. It is fantastic to see more inclusion, so for a crossword that can be accused of being FUSTY-MUSTY and is the most well-recognized to throw in an LGBT-related theme (and not on National Coming Out Day or Pride Month, even) is great. They should definitely get credit for that. I don't personally have the "little late" reaction, but I do think being a comic book fan has conditioned me to assume that the more a bit of inclusiveness gets hyped up, the less likely it is to be a permanent and prominent step. To some degree, that's not fair, and I don't want the push for lasting change to inadvertently come across as backlash against the change in the first place and discourage future efforts. Early steps will rarely if ever be "enough," but we should still encourage them and the people who take them.

So, yes, great to see this from the NYT, and I hope that we'll continue to see more from these particularly modern perspectives and voices!

For reference, I was FFFM, but didn't know which squares the revealer was pointing at until I saw that thread on Twitter. I checked for X's that could be Y's, or 2x2 squares with combinations of them near each other, something. Couldn't help putting in SAME-sex after already coming across so many LGBT-related terms, it was definitely on the mind. I actually put in GENDERQUEER at first, and then trans for the LGBTQ clue, but got that fixed pretty quickly when Shaq didn't make sense for SURF.

Aslan Lyons 1:23 AM  

Figured out the gimmick in time to look for the remaining m and f combo's. This was rare fun for me but not easy as I remain a beginner.

Mark Barrett 1:29 AM  

FFFM for me and SUTTON was an instafill as I may be fairly new to crossword puzzles, but in comparison I have about 45 years of loving trivia with 32 of those years watching J!. I did not get the theme as I was trying to make HIS/HER, BOY/GIRL or HE/SHE work in various places.

Trombone Tom 1:44 AM  

MMFM for me. I didn't notice the M/F potential until hiti

I can't rate this easy because of the NE corner. Despite having been born in Portland OREGON and having just returned from a family wedding in Idaho I had great difficulty in properly placing the Snake R.

STOWE was equally slow to appear. LOWART was visible only via the crosses.

I have year-round allergies, but fortunately RAGWEED is not so common in California.

Liked the theme and execution, but expect this in a Ben Tausig puzzle. I enjoyed this one very much.

Trombone Tom 1:50 AM  

MMFM for me. I didn't notice the M/F potential until I hit the reveal.

I can't rate this easy because of the NE corner. Despite having been born in Portland OREGON and having just returned from a family wedding in Idaho I had great difficulty in properly placing the Snake R.

STOWE was equally slow to appear. LOWART was visible only via the crosses.

I have year-round allergies, but fortunately RAGWEED is not so common in California.

Liked the theme and execution, but expect this in a Ben Tausig puzzle. I enjoyed this one very much.

Mark 1:56 AM  

Sutton was a gimme for me too; it was Dante I had to work at.

Roy Leban 1:59 AM  

Very nice puzzle by Ben today. I'm surprised (and pleased) that this was an NYT puzzle instead of an AVCX puzzle.

Puzzazz was completely fluid on what it allowed, accepting MF, FM, M, or F as correct in any of the ambiguous cells, for a total of 256 correct solutions (beating the previous record of 27 correct solutions for the 12/04/2014 puzzle). The "official" answer, that Puzzazz shows when the puzzle is completed, is M/F. Why M/F and not F/M? Simple: In the .puz version, MF was given as the correct answer and Puzzazz matched that.

Marty Van B 2:03 AM  

Totally missed the boat on the M & interchanges.

I actually started the puzzle with 68A: XENA. 70A terminates with EASY. So that's two corners with male chromosomes of XY and the central revealer of GENDERFLUIDITY, my brain was nowhere near working out interchanging M and F's. I was too confused about how XENA could possibly start with a Y, or what's going on XEROX (YEROY???), or maybe an alternate spelling of Chinese currency could be XUAN.

To quote 30A, "UGH".

Larry Gilstrap 2:11 AM  

Apparently the gimmick eluded this person. And how was I supposed to figure out which of the squares were the MFers? I know that kid in EQUUS had some GENDER issues, or were they species issues? Speaking of which, read any of the current research on hominids, and bonobos are prominent. Not sure why the word doesn't appear in my trusty Merriam-Webster's Tenth Edition. Egads! Another obscure western state is paraded out in this week's travelogue. Rogue's place was already taken? During the hot summer months, I spend more time near the coast, as do lots of other people; so many cars that are low on blinkER FLUID. Exercise those finger folks! Signal your intentions! Trivia question: To whom was Laura a beloved? How about Celia? Next time constructors do something really clever, how about a heads-up?

Mike in Mountain View 2:48 AM  

MMFM. Liked it a lot, though I didn't find the Schrodinger squares until I was done.

Loren Muse Smith 3:49 AM  

I agree that the northeast was toughish. I struggled with the southwest, too, so this was not as easy for me as some are reporting.

I love Schrödingers. So cool to have eight *Eight!* words or expressions that can have either an M or an F and still work with the clue.

I'm with those who finished and then were considering a x/y changeup, but I figured the deal out easily enough.

I still use the word XEROX for "copy." And I can still smell a freshly-mimeographed SHEET.

Rex, @kitshef – same thought on the F in FLUID.

I can't be the only one who had "gay" before WRY 35D for the clue "not straight." Also "all" before THE for 63D.

I had two aunts who were world-class hoarders. Seriously-be-on-Oprah hoarders. Growing up, there was no word for them save "pack-rat." I remember being so relieved and grateful when the word "hoarders" entered the picture, kind of de-demonizing the whole thing.

This is very different in that being GENDER FLUID isn't something that needs to be fixed or cured, but I can only imagine that some are experiencing the same relief nowadays that the way they are has a name and that there's no shame in it. I'm with @Z and @Floregonian - I won't say "it's about time, Times" but rather – yay. For the two friends I have who are GENDER FLUID – Just. Yay.

Hey, Rex, what with your pseudonym and all, we could say you’re a Prof King.

Thanks, Ben, Will. Can't wait to show this puzzle around.

Anonymous 6:07 AM  

MFFM. So proud I'm the first to point out here the sexually euphemismistic nature of A/C-D/C. Tho maybe I'm dating myself in the process. Then there's "dating myself." Make it stop!

Not sure, BTW, that hoarding should be de-demonized. Puzzle good. Didn't strike me as self-congratulatory. Unlike OFL's disdain of that potentiality.

Anonymous 6:13 AM  

So it's AC/DC. Sorry about the hyper punctuation.

Sheik Yerbouti 6:13 AM  

100 percent agree with Rex that the self-congratulations by NYT is nonsense. I thought they were touting it because it was particularly good. Now I see that, while the puzzle is good, they were touting it because they think it is important or controversial. I'm not sure an NYT crossword could ever be legitimately important, but this ain't it. A- puzzle by Ben Tausig, D- by the NYT for the surrounding ridiculousness.

Aketi 6:28 AM  

I had MFFF, Didn't get the M/Ftheme. Thanks to the prior Y CHROMOSOME kerfuffle and DNA being in this puzzle I was hunting for X and Y combos. Found X and X capping the both ends of XEROX and X and Y at opposite ends of the bottom line, but no intersex options, Oh well,

De 6:42 AM  

Me, too. Finished with only 3 X's and scratched my head. All four of my squares were F.

Martín Abresch 6:52 AM  

MMFM

With no traction in the NW, I began in the N. Mistook the feature for a bug and made a mental note to grumble about the intersection of [FM]USTY/[FM]ESS_UP. Instead I'll grumble about the intersection in the NW of ALVA/OLEANNA. Got it, but that L was a complete guess for me. Grumble grumble.

The theme was solid. This is a wonderful use of Shrödinger squares. I especially liked SA[FM]E (Word that can precede sex).

The puzzle itself felt like six mini puzzles. Two of those minis (the NE and S) seemed lonesome, not having a Shrödinger to liven them up. However, I am 100% sure that my brain is underestimating the difficulty of executing this theme. Finding eight pairs of words that can be clued together, having those words intersect, and fitting them into a grid with a central 11. That's pretty darn tricky.

Liked the clues for XEROX (Run off, in a way), OREGON (Snake's place, partly), and WRY (Not straight).

Glad to see that the NYT Crossword is becoming more inclusive.

johnnymcguirk 7:03 AM  

Too easy for a Thursday and about as edgy as an epee, but clever nonetheless. B+.

Cassieopia 7:17 AM  

FMFM here. Once I got GENDERFLUID in the center, I started looking like a hawk at all those Xs, to no avail. And once I read the revealer on Twitter, I wondered why the iPhone app accepted a single letter in those squares. If the app were to truly support the theme, shouldn't it have mandated FM in those 4 squares before playing that happy "you solved it!" music?

Once I understood the theme, I thought it incredibly clever, and was amazed that there were so many words crossing that could have switched letters like that. Cluing was fun too, with the OREGON clue being my favorite - I kept wanting some kind of ---den. 61A slowed me down, too - jobs, self, love, life, fate, mate - who knew that fortuntellers deal with so many 4 letter words?

Really liked the puzzle, and the theme was clever, I just wish I had been clever enough to discover it on my own.

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

FFFF. And I didn't see the theme until I had completed the puzzle and read the blog! Very fast solve but feel as though I "missed out" somehow.

Passing Shot 7:32 AM  

FFFM. Hand up for thinking the theme had something to do with the Xs. I'd heard of the CLINTON/BOBDOLE puzzle but was not familiar with the term "Schrodinger" in relation to puzzles. Neat trick, enjoyable puzzle.

NCA President 7:37 AM  

MMMM...on the website there was no indication that there was any other choice. M/FIRE just wasn't a question...for me MIRE was right, as with all the others. I stared at the puzzle for a long time before coming here to find out what the hell the theme was. Further, I was one of those Rex mentioned who thought it might have to do with chromosomes, but I couldn't find any Ys that made sense of the Xs.

So in terms of the theme, this was a huge fail. And quite honestly, the F versions of all the words were dubious. MIRE is better than FIRE, MUSTY is better than FUSTY, MATE is marginally better than FATE (I hated the SW, btw), and ROOM is marginally better than ROOF...though probably the most apropos.

The SW was awful. Cher and Dolly Parton are ICONs? That's it? Two random female singers. ICONs. What in the utter f*ck? PREMIX? TENACE? SUTTON? Terrible.

And I agree with Rex in questioning the self-congratulatory nature of the NYT giving a nod to the T community. The trans community has unfortunately been too closely identified with the LGB community...they are really an entirely different mindset. In the Venn diagram of sexuality, Cisgendered people are in one big circle (straight, gay, and bisexuals are in there together), and gender fluid people are in another...and the sexual preference within that circle is pretty murky and not as clear cut as you'd think. A transmale (female to male) is not necessarily attracted to females and so isn't necessarily "gay."

I could go on and on about this, but suffice to say our language has no words to describe gender fluidity, and so it's very hard to get a grip on what it really means for a person who is trans.

The way my son describes it is that you have to concurrent spectra: sexuality and gender. And while we are now all just coming into accepting a wide spectrum of sexuality...hetero, homo, and bi...there exists an entirely different spectrum of gender that can manifest itself in lots of ways...cis, trans, and androgenous.

The only way homosexuality came to become widely accepted was through people, over time, getting to know gay people personally as friends and family members, and learning their stories about how they came to terms with who they are. If anyone is really struggling with the idea that someone can be born one gender but is conflicted about it enough to identify as the other, then I suggest you go out of your way to read about it, or better yet, talk to someone about it...respectfully of course. You will find that our idea of sexuality is very complicated. Clearly it has been for a long time which means there have been lots of people who have lived lives of quiet desperation for millennia.

Finally we're coming to realize this. At the very least the NYT has inched toward a nod in the direction. But self-congratulations aside, it is a lot deeper than just throwing in a GENDERFLUID answer in a Thursday xword puzzle.

Tim Pierce 7:55 AM  

FFFM, but I didn't see the F/M interchangeability at all, and had to come here to understand what made this puzzle GENDERFLUID. It's very clever and well executed, but on that level the puzzle didn't quite work for me -- I just couldn't see the ambiguity in the theme squares to get what made them significant.

I did like the theme chorus clues: "Not straight", "LBGTQ", "Word that can precede sex", "Cher or Dolly Parton" -- would it have been too obvious to have used "Patsy Cline" there? -- and I think even "Lucy Lawless role" and "Reveal a secret, say" have echoes on the theme.

I take Rex's point about the NYT being slow to come around, but that's not really surprising, now, is it? For a paper that steadfastly refused to use even the word "gay" until, what, the mid-1990s? this is nice to see.

Anonymous 7:55 AM  

Hey Michael - one of your former students has taken on the SJW cause. Annaliese Nielsen.

Lewis 8:01 AM  

MFFF

So, inching toward progress here, yes. We'll really know that progress has been made when these realities are so taken for granted that a puzzle like this will be appreciated for its wordplay rather than message.

The puzzle itself made for a terrific solve. The hardest area for me was the area around the reveal, and when that finally fell and the coin dropped, that was very very satisfying. And what a terrific theme idea and execution!

I don't see saunas as steamy; it's very dry in there no matter how much you sweat. I had DonnE for DANTE for a while, even as my subconscious was screaming that it was someone else linked to Beatrice. I like the progression from up to down of OVERLONG to GAG to TERSE. And I love the words FUSTY and DYSTOPIA.

The puzzle's solve was so lovely and the theme idea so brilliant that this riff on some well-known lyrics popped into this crossword lover's head:

You're so Fine
I wanna make you Mine

Suzy 8:04 AM  

Me, too! Only found the NW to be a slog!

mathgent 8:07 AM  

I think that the four squares should have been circled. I finished the puzzle without much of a struggle and then started looking for the four squares. FLUIDITY made me think of the letters LGBTQ, not MF. And then there's the red herring with the three Xs and the three Ys.

The only time I noticed the gimmick was for ROOM/ROOF and I didn't see MAKE/FAKE. Being disappointed that I didn't see the theme and annoyed at the red herring, today's grade is C.

James F 8:09 AM  

MFMM

Jack Lee 8:21 AM  

MFFM. And I had to check here to understand the theme.

Charles Flaster 8:22 AM  

Easy but very enjoyable with a DNF at APES-- looked for AxES as I wanted the fourth variable and Naticked at that intersection.
Clue for OREGON once eluded me but not today.
Also , two baseball names-- Don SUTTON and Gene TEN ACE.
Thanks BT.

doorslam 8:23 AM  

MFFF.
Got GENDERFLUID pretty quickly and still managed to not recognize the theme answers. My inner trademark attorney is still cringing over the verbing of XEROX (R).

Anonymous 8:27 AM  

FFFF. At some point I realized they could also be MMMM, glanced down at the revealer, and said, Wow, that's cool. I know, fluid isn't binary, and it's not CLINTON/BOBDOLE, but it's still cool.

Not to open up a can of worms, but I think it's important to distinguish between the NYT editorial content and the NYT puzzle. Puzzles aside, the paper has been quite progressive on gender/sex issues and rights for some time, so in some ways, the puzzle is just catching up to the paper.

Hungry Mother 8:30 AM  

NE was a SLOG for me as it took me a long while to get XEROX. Hardest Thursday in a while for me.

Z 8:31 AM  

@Martin Abresch - Pro-Tip - Four letter inventor middle name ---> ALVA probably 99 out of 100 times, although I can't think of the exception.

I live in a state, as many of us do, that voted to actively discriminate against anyone not straight a mere decade ago. I spend my winter months in a state whose legislature and governor are worried about which public restroom we use. The year is 2016 and I think it is a good thing that the NYT makes a hullabaloo about this puzzle. Is there a degree of excess self-congratulations in the hype? I wouldn't want to seem ungracious by pointing it out if there were. Just like I wouldn't want to comment if there were a tad too much self-congratulations in chastising the NYT for being late to inclusiveness. No, I wouldn't want to do that, it would be rude. I'll just assume everyone has the best intentions, however flawed the execution may seem at times.

Generic Solver 8:36 AM  

This was definitely one of the toughest Thursdays *ever* for me, and I'm a pretty experienced solver. The NE was a brutal disaster - most of the clues there were tricky (OREGON for "Snake's place, partly" with the "hiddden" capital S) or required specific knowledge such as obscure (to me at least) authors and actors.

Also had DONNE for DANTE in the NE because I had no idea about OLEANNA or TED.

The M/F theme was well-executed, but by no means earth-shatteringly controversial in today's world.

Jocasta Guyon 8:37 AM  

I agree with others who were disappointed that the apps allowed you a "solve" without having filled in either "FM" or "MF" for the theme squares. I got the music and still felt like a failure. Please, programmers, fix that. Because of the technology, this whole puzzle was a womp womp for me.

Sir Hillary 8:38 AM  

MFFM

Here's why I loved this puzzle: Thursdays always have rebus potential, so as a pen solver I tread slowly. The NW gave me fits and I had to move elsewhere, so I was sure something was going on up there. Still thinking rebus, especially after I saw the clue for the revealer, which I couldn't get. Then I filled in the rest of the puzzle -- N, SE, S, SW, NE, revealer, then finally the NW. No rebus squares -- WTF?. I stared at the revealer for about a minute, then began hunting for X's and Y's -- nothing happening there. Finally I looked at the F's and M's and figured out what was going on. I got that awesome "Aha!" feeling, complete with goose bumps. I love that -- best solving feeling there is. I get it every time I solve a Gaffney meta, but never in a NYT puzzle until today.

Any time the subject matter makes a puzzle feel more inclusive, especially to a group that has been (and still is) subject to systematic disenfranchisement, that's a good thing. But I loved this one for the solving experience, which was wonderful.

Hartley70 8:39 AM  

I was a girl all the way, FFFF. The M manifestation of each word never even occurred to me. I slipped those F bombs in without a second thought and then looked around for a FLUID GENDER to no avail. The puzzle seemed too easy for the hype until I came here to discover what I was missing. Tada!...thanks to Rex. I'm intrigued that my mind resisted all Ms.

I watched "The Danish Girl" the night before last. It's an excellent film and I had been musing on the transgender subject matter ever since, so this puzzle was very timely here.

I'm disappointed that I missed the point of the M/F possibilities, but admire the constructor's skill. Ben did an excellent job. If the Times has been lax in acknowledging the gender spectrum, then this puzzle is a big kick in the pants.

Tita A 8:44 AM  

MFFF
@Tim Pierce...don't forget the other theme chorus items (love that term)... Not straight, DANDY...am I missing any?

I stared and stared.before even reading or entering all the letters of the revealer, because part of the fun for me is guessing the theme without the revealer. I was disappointed that I was unable to grok it. So I read the revealer. Got even more disjointed that I still hadn't a clue.
Then I filled in the last letter (the E at EQUUS...who knew there was such a car??!). Puzzazz then changed my chosen squares to M/Fs. Aha!

Absurd behavior by the nyt to shout it out in the way they did. But yes, a big step for them. And ironic, considering...

Ben...nice execution. I do admire Schrödinger puzzles on their own, and one that helps EDGE us nearer to making this subject not a big deal is good.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

I had FFFM.

Is the hype really because QUEER and GENDERFLUID were included in the puzzle? Really? What is it, 1902?

And really easy for a Thursday.

John V 8:46 AM  

GENDERDFLUID is new to me thus Dnf.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

Meh. If this puzzle was a necessary part of a social movement, it just stalled.

phil phil 8:49 AM  

Maybe it is more well known than I assumed but no one has mentioned the fact the Bonobos apes are a completely genderfluid species.

What no grade, Rex. Again..

Giovanni Pagano 9:09 AM  

Cute puzzle, wasn't expecting gender fluid in the Times. Didn't notice the extra F and the other theme-ish clues until pointed out to me.

Number of names will likely be a turn off for some people. Also,I was expecting more of the term SJW getting thrown around, but there hasn't been as much as I expected. Shall we keep it that way?

Nancy 9:15 AM  

I was going to mention the CLINTON/BOB DOLE puzzle from years ago, but Rex beat me to it. Probably many of you did, too, but if I read all 52 of you before I write this, it'll take forever to get this comment up. So I have no idea yet how you all felt about this puzzle. For me, it's one of my favorite puzzle types -- a feat that I always admire. The problem is that there are only four squares involved, so there isn't any density and, what's more, the puzzle played very easy for a Thursday. As Rex says, you can solve it as a themeless and miss the whole conceit -- but I'm happy to say that I saw the trick and got all four GENDER FLUID squares. For me the only problem was ESPNU -- it must be one of those expensive channels I don't pay extra for. Fortunately, I knew YUAN, sort of. I liked this, but certainly didn't love it. There just wasn't enough challenge. Going back to read you all now.

kitshef 9:21 AM  

As of 9am:

1Across 18M 10F
5Across 7M 21F
61Across 4M 24F
67Across 19M 9F

Overall, the Fs have it 57% - 43%.

Carola 9:24 AM  

I had a GENDER imbalance with three Ms and 1F.
Having worked down the west side, I had the X in XENA before the reveal, so with GEN in place I completed it with "-eration x" (even though that hardly fit the clue) and then immediately erased it when DNA had to go in. Still, even with GENDER FLUID in place, I kept trying to do something with the Xs until the "Wait a minute...." moment when I remembered I'd hesitated over ROOM/F and M/FUSTY. Had to hunt for the other 2 squares. Not sure about 45D: a PREMIX is a thing ("It's combined at the beginning")? I liked ALVA over GEEK.

Knitwit 9:26 AM  

I had FFFM. The NE was difficult for me and I didn't get the letter switch til I came here! I thought it had something to do with an X/Y thing. I did like this one!

Nancy 9:41 AM  

@lms (3:49 a.m.) -- Yes, I too, had gaY before WRY.

@Mathgent (8:07) -- Loved your comment about all the Xs and Ys in the puzzle being "red herrings." Fortunately, I went looking for F/Ms from the get-go.

I see that many of you are identifying your first thoughts on the theme squares. FWIW, mine were ROOF/FAKE; FUSTY/FESS UP; FATE/PREFIX and SAFE/FIRE. (Hi, @Hartley).

For those of you who had trouble in the NW, that's where I hit my biggest snags, too. Like others, I thought that OREGON was the toughest clue in the puzzle. And I had no idea what "kitsch" might be. Never mind LOW ART: I don't think of it as ART at all.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

I know that the 4 "fluid" boxes only flip between binary F and M choices, but considering that you can have 4 Fs, 4 Ms, 3F/1M, 3M/1F or 2 and 2... the puzzle technically has 5 genders. That's pretty good. I don't think we need to complain about that!

Stanley Hudson 9:56 AM  

@Z: well said about self-congratulations. Sometimes the hipper-than-thou shtick gets tiresome.

DLK 9:56 AM  

I'm in Richard's crowd so Willie Sutton was a gift--and his bio is quite charming, as I recall. So on the theme of why rob banks... As we all know, the banks finally figured out where the money comes from and robbed the biggest bank of all. And, lest we forget, Alexander Hamilton was its first chairman. Finally, I went with MFFM, probably an age thing. Ou sont...

puzzle hoarder 9:57 AM  

I know I promised no teeth but I'll bite. I was MFFF.
This puzzle got off to a slow start. I had a number of instant correct guesses in that top tier but couldn't combine any surely enough to write, not even ENL. My first entry was good old ENO. The center then filled in quickly. The only hesitation there was needing KIA to support WREAK. GAY seemed too obvious based on just the Y. After that the only hesitation was in the SW. DIVA blocked ICON until XENA cleared everything up.
Speaking of icons years ago there was an older guy at one of the jobs I had who had a friend from the bars he introduced as Judy Garland. I never learned his real name and I think he really liked that I only referred to him as Judy.
@LMS thanks for bringing up hoarding today.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Did they have 'best selling' authors in the 19th century? Dandy doesn't mean super in any context. Xerox is a really poor clue for run out as no one has said that since the 90s and even then I think it was used more to mean copy. Tusks clued as narwhal features implies that they have more than one each because if the question were answered it would be to say 'they have a tusk.' Lock fixer as a clue for gel? I'm going to put some gel on this lock? This puzzle was a 10 across, I don't care what the theme was.

Mark 10:07 AM  

If you are counting, I was MFFM

Mike Rees 10:08 AM  

I missed the theme entirely. Even with the revealer, I had no idea what it meant and the NYT appmgame me a win once I had something in all the squares. MFMM, for what it's worth.

I got Naticked at PUENTE/EQUUS anyway, so I guess it didn't really matter. Seems like an awgul lot of PPP in this one, and lots of crossworese I could have done without. Can we let Brian ENO retire already?

Mohair Sam 10:16 AM  

So I said to Lady M, "I give up, I can't find the fourth X. Good puzzle, yeah, but there are two spots where you could have used an "M" for the "F" in both directions, that's a serious flaw."

Well, there were four spots, idiot. Terrific puzzle.

I'm with @Rex in wondering about all the excitement over the theme. It's a play on words (or letters), nothing more - didn't give "edgy" a thought when I wrote in GENDERFLUID. And since XENA and XEROX were in the grid I thought we were maybe talking chromosomes. The M/F thing is so much better - shoulda gotten a David Bowie clue in there somewhere.

NE gave us fits: Clue for TORO was tough for us, Kitsch is lots of stuff. And STOWE's great work was decades before the very best of Twain, so we fought that one - and boy were we ever misdirected by SNAKE.

@Tita A - Yup, there's a vehicle out there named EQUUS. First time I saw an ad for the thing I said to myself - "I'm thinking the manufacturer missed the play."

Unknown 10:19 AM  

Saunas are only steamy in the sense that they are hot. In fact, there's no steam in a sauna -- steam rooms are steamy.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

FFFF

Roo Monster 10:29 AM  

Hey All !
So this was the break-out-the-band most awesome puz we've heard about? Okay.... Seemed nothing ground breaking to me. Maybe why Will hasn't accepted one of my puzs yet, if this passes for excellence. (Not saying mine are blow-your-doors-off puzs, but I could argue one or two are better). :-)

My letter order, since I didn't get the M-F changeling thingamabob, was FFFM. My toughest spot was NE. Fitting SLOG was there. Don't think I've heard the phrase GENDER FLUID before. Also, why is QUEER a separate part in LGBT? Shouldn't that fall under G?

Why is EQUUS clued as it is? Play on word Equine as plural? UGH.

And if Nuyotican musician Tito PUENTE can be in a puz, than a bunch of my rejections with odd clues should've gotten through. Just sayin. :-P

Ah, SHEET.
RooMonster
DarrinV

Mohair Sam 10:30 AM  

Oh yeah - FFFM

And hand up with the gaY before WRY group (also dRY before WRY - big day for Wite-out).

Nancy 10:38 AM  

Re my 9:41 comment: I meant trouble in the NE, not the NW.

Dolgo 10:44 AM  

I'm usually pretty good at the Thursday "gimmick" puzzle, but this one threw me. I had to give up with gender fluid. I guess I agree with all the sexual politics type gripes expressed above. As a gay man, I certainly don't consider myself "gender fluid." And I guess since I live in the boonies of far NW California. I'm not familiar with the term. So I got most of the puzzle, though, but had trouble with the NE. As a crossword fan, though, I am happy to add Schrödinger to my vocabulary!

Mikey From El Prado 10:47 AM  

MFMM, and would do it the same knowing the squares with options, which I didn't know until long after completing.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

First three were Fs, last was an M. But only because those were the answers that came to me. I had no idea what the gimmick was until after reading about it. This puzzle was much ado about nothing.

The Clerk 10:48 AM  

Bottom corners were X and Y.
Thought the NE was clunky.
Is there something interesting with the seemingly random placement of the four squares?

Happy Pencil 10:49 AM  

Like @David, @Tim Pierce, and many others, I had FFFM. And like @LMS, I had “gay” before WRY. I did not have the aha moment that @Sir Hillary so wonderfully describes, and I do feel slightly cheated for that reason. I also believed the trick had something to do with X's and Y's.

I guess the fact that I never sussed what was going on is a testament to how legitimate all the theme answers were. But like other posters, I wish I'd been tipped a bit more overtly to what was going on (or maybe just not misled by all those X's). I also found the puzzle very easy -- in fact, I was ten whole minutes faster than my average Thursday time and mere seconds off my record for this day of the week. I blasted through it so quickly that I failed to pay enough attention to what was going on, so I wish it had put up a little bit more of a fight. If I had hesitated at even one of the four theme crossings, I might have figured out what was going on.

Overall, though, a really clever and well-executed puzzle, and I'm more than okay with better late than never.

AZPETE 11:18 AM  

Agree. Would hv made it more fun.

old timer 11:18 AM  

Let's just say the coffee has not really kicked in when I do the puzzle. So even though I got GENDERFLUID I did not figure out that in four squares you could put in either M or F. Well, I kind of did because I thought ROOM/MAKE but ended up with ROOF/FAKE. FUSTY was next with no thought of MUSTY. FATE went right in, never thought of MATE. And so did MIRE. So, girls won 3-1 today. But seriously, some of the fluid answers strike me as just wrong. MESS UP is a stretch for "reveal a secret" and so is the PREMIX/MATE combo.

My favorite misdirect: the Snake clue for OREGON. Easiest clue for people my age: TEENAGER. Went right in, though I forgot Dion was the one who sang it.

Never heard of the EQUUS car model. The word, of course, is Latin for "horse". Certainly forgot STOWE lived in Hartford, though I knew Clemens did.

I rather like DANTE as a poet myself. That's because I have a set of the Divine Comedy that has the Tuscan Italian on the left and an English translation on the right, so I can read the Italian aloud and hear the poetry without having to know what all the Italian words mean.

wgh 11:21 AM  

FFFM. Had to have Rex explain the theme, but enjoyed it all the same.

J. D. KaPow 11:21 AM  

Huh. I had FFFF. Cis-gendered male, for the record. Never did figure out the theme - had to come here for that.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

I stopped my subscription to Ben Tausig's puzzles for the very reason I detest this puzzle. Ben is little more than a 12 year old boy fascinated by all things sexual, giggling and finding sex where there is none. So no surprise when this one showed up with the GENDERFLUID theme. Grow the fuck up.

AZPETE 11:28 AM  

MMFF

mac 11:32 AM  

MFFM, and I needed Rex to explain the theme to me...

Nice puzzle. My toughest area was the crossing of the two channels, TNN and ESPNE. I always have trouble with acronyms. Not fair.

G.Harris 11:33 AM  

MMMM. Didn't get the gimmick. NE was tough and only went down after googling to get Stowe.

Joseph Michael 11:43 AM  

Add me to the MFFM club.

Leave it to Rex to use a great puzzle as an opportunity to bash the NYT again. This was fresh, fun, and creative. The best puzzle of the week by far. And thank you to Will Shortz & company for taking another step forward into the 21st century.

Took a while to suss the theme and had a nice aha! when it finally came to light. Enjoyed the mix of old and new in the fill and such entries as DYSTOPIA, RAGWEED, and OLEANNA (from the days when Mamet could still write good plays).

And for those who don't think SAUNAs can get steamy, you should try the one at my gym which is frequented by Ms with SAME sex aspirations.

G.Harris 11:43 AM  

F words are forced (with exception of f/musty). Thus, fabricate is to lie not fake, prefix may be upfront but it is not combined as in premix and fire is an element while mire is stuff.

Barbara Weinstein 11:44 AM  

Completely missed the gimmick. Also thought it was about the Xs and Ys. Filled in an F every time. Guess I'm not that fluid.

QuasiMojo 11:54 AM  

I'm a dried-up old prune without any gender fluids left. I thought this puzzle was another example of how the Times is dumbing-down the crossword in order to appeal to a new generation of superficial millennials who know nothing about anything except what is popular on social media or the latest cause celebre on college campuses. Who cares about these "conceits" to use @Nancy's lovely word? Can't we just have puzzles that challenge the mind instead of one's political persuasions or penchant for timeliness? And as a gay man myself, I am not particularly ecstatic to see people congratulating themselves on finally coming around to already well-established notions of sexual identity. My "Gawd" even the Donald is ejaculating the letters LGBTQ in his speeches, although he has a hard time spitting out the Q. The one good thing for me is that this puzzle reminded me of a novel by Anthony Burgess "M/F" which is a lot more engrossing than this exercise in cruciverbosity.

Chaos344 12:04 PM  

@QuasiMojo:

Well said Sir! As someone who has "skin in the game" your comment was especially meaningful.

Anoa Bob 12:24 PM  

I'm feeling a little excluded here. What I noticed first about this puzz was the relatively high number of black squares, 40. Gave the grid a low albedo value and very isolated segments, especially the corners. Made for a chunky solve for me.

Thought the repeated AGE in NEW AGE & TEENAGER was a little clunky.

Thought for a second or two that SPUNK might be related to GENDER FLUID.

Had a close friend who came out as QUEER and a fellow grad student who was trans, both in the mid 70's, so not much of an EDGE on the theme for me.

I love the SAUNA and, as @Lewis & @Unknown PUENTE out, they generally have a very low humidity. Some do have rocks in a tray over the heater and some users will pour water over them to produce steam (which kind of defeats the purpose for me), so the clue "steamy" wasn't entirely wrong.

My favorite part of the puzz was the inclusion of DYSTOPIA & ODYSSEY. Warms a word-nerd's heart.

QuasiMojo 1:08 PM  

Thank you @Chaos! Lucky you to live in Sag Harbor! I used to go there often in the 60s and 70s when it was the ugly sister of the "Hamptons," a word not used much in those days. It was the East End or South Fork. Wish I were there now, though. Is the old movie theater on Main still operating?

Anonymous 1:16 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle. I am not a speed solver but this was somewhere around average difficulty for a Thursday for me.

Out of curiosity, who was the original SUTTON that Ben clued? Is SUTTON Foster well-known enough?

Teedmn 1:16 PM  

FFFM (makes me want to rattle it off to the beginning of Beethoven's Fifth).

And anyone who has followed my meta sussing-out successes (nearly nil) will not be surprised that I join @Aketi today. I made a token attempt to find four somethings, XERO(X)ed in on the Xs and Ys, counted more than four and said hmmph. So the enjoyment factor ratcheted up when I saw the true reveal at Xwordinfo.

The closest to a SLOG this puzzle got was the NE where the Luke or OWEN question seemed very FLUID, as was the Snake part of the 12D clue (FLUID, river, um hmm). I've never heard of TORO as referring to sushi.

The SW had its issues, with SUTTON and TEN-ACE as WOEs. But I never questioned my FATE once I imagined PREFIX could work at 45D.

Nice work, Mr. Tausig, and thanks to the NYTimes for becoming less FUSTY.

Sir Hillary 1:22 PM  

@Anoa Bob -- Massive guffaw at SPUNK-GENDERFLUID comment.

Masked and Anonymous 1:24 PM  

"If you do one New York Times #crossword this year …" Well, yeah. I mean, day-um -- 11 U's, dude! (yo, @kitshef) EQUUS! M&A's fave horse. thUmbsUp!

Ran into a ROOM/FAKE dilemma, quicker than snot, in the NW corner, which led me to immediately check out the central revealer. Was suspicious/paranoid of almost every entry, for the rest of the puz solvequest, which was great. Ended up with (F or M, I dunno)+FFF.

Big trouble in the NE, even without the hormonal squares of death. Didn't understand OREGON, and still don't. Wanted TOGO for the "fatty tuna part, at a sushi restaurant", as in: TO GO into the garbage bucket. Shoulda known better, as Mr. Tausig ain't gonna cross TOGO with GONEXT, unless real desperate. Speakin of which …

Bullets de Desperados (yo, @Mexican Trump fans):

* TENACE. Reminds the M&A … the US Open in on EPSN(non-U), just about now …
* GENDER(MF-in')LUID. Doesn't work with the other lil MF's.
* TEENAGER in love. Dion! Primo oldie song. Got it, on 45 rpm.
* OVERLONG. Wanted EVERMORE, but only for a precious nanosecond or two.
* PTS. weeject staff pick. A runtpuz regular.

Thanx, Mr. Tausig. Epic U-count. Talkin I Fink U Freaky Award contention. OREGON? Oregon Snakespeare Festival? Do the Snake River pass thru Oregon? (I floated down it once, but in Idaho.) Did Snake Plissken hail from the Beaver State? Confuses the M&A. But, I digress.

Masked and Anonymo11Us

JC66 1:26 PM  

Finished with FFFM in Across Lite and had to use "Check" to figure out what the deal was.

@NCA President

Great post, today.

Masked and Anonymous 1:35 PM  

p.s.
yep. Snake River snakes thru OREGON. So … ok.

Just barely, tho! Pretty snaky clue, Shortzmeister. Don't fake fe cofe down there.

First comment typo roundup:
* US Open **IS** on ESPN(non-U). Right now, in fact.

M & Also F & …


**gruntz**

GILL I. 1:42 PM  

Am I the only FMMF?
After finishing the puzzle I said to myself and the walls "Oh goodo...the NYT is finally allowing QUEER and GENDER FLUID in its puzzles." Well, by golly, do you really need a pat on the back? Do we say thank you? Do we applaud you for finally joining us in the year 2016?
I totally missed the whole MFers. I honestly kept thinking this was a bit easy and that something sneaky would jump out and bite me. Nothing did. Just another dumb Thursday. I'm glad for @Rex's blog for showing me the way of my errors and to tell me this was a Schrodinger. I totally missed it. Didn't care at the time. Now I see that it was pretty cool. Nothing grandiose, just cool.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner.....clap clap clap. hiss.

Roo Monster 2:11 PM  

@M&A (F&A)
"the hormonal squares of death"
Holy frijole, I'm still laughing at that one!

And this was one MFing puz...

RooMonster

E Schrödinger 2:12 PM  

I know that after 80 years of cumulative scientific and logical idiocy the cat is thought to be both alive and dead at the same time, but that's not what I said. Clearly, the cat is either dead or alive, as cats can't be otherwise. The experiment was meant to show the absurdity of the Copenhagen Interpretation, as it leads to the cat being both dead and alive at the same while FRIGGIN CATS ARE EITHER ALIVE OR DEAD BUT NOT BOTH.

Chaos344 2:18 PM  

QuasiMojo:

Ah Yes! We seem to be part of the "Old White Men" contingent that is ruining the country in general and the blogs in particular. ;-)

The Sag Harbor Movie theater is still going strong. About ten years ago, a group of celebrities started a drive to save the iconic neon sign. My friend and neighbor Lanford Wilson (the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright) was involved in the effort, as well as many other notables in the arts and literature community. Below is a link that I am sure will evoke some fond memories, especially at the 4:30 mark. Shades of American Graffiti. A simpler time that Americans will never know again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM_yw_tMXz8

Dick Swart 2:58 PM  

As an olde guy (82) who only does the NYT xword, the gender -fluid theme was a first for me in a puzzle.

But actually, the solving was pretty easy with no words unknown even to me ... just a question of thinking.

Harder for the members of the "Quiet Generation" may be current social and arts references.

QuasiMojo 3:09 PM  

Thank you Chaos for the link to the vid. Big fan of Mr. Wilson's. So many landmarks in that village. The old Whaling Church, Otto Fen's, Sag Street Antiques, Canio's... but I better rest my case. Not cool to take up space on the blog for reminiscences. Laters! :)

dm3000 3:39 PM  

The Q can also stand for Questioning. Nobody here seems to have commented on this, or I just missed it.

Michael 4:15 PM  

Didn't get to read all the comments so someone else might have said this: for many of us in the LGBTQ community the Q stands for "questioning" as in leaving open ones sexual orientation/identity.

Frank 4:52 PM  

I too read through all the comments and was surprised that nobody else raised "questioning". Also I don't see what tenace has to do with bridge; a blackjack clue would have been better.

Aketi 5:09 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aketi 5:13 PM  

Hahaha, there is nothing like boredom and procrastination to drive you to spend too much time looking at letters and words in the puzzle.i was actually waiting for my son to finish some essays for me to review.

@Anoa Bob, I'll have a hard time in the future hearing GENDER FLUID without a twitch if a smile thanks to your alternate interpretation of FLUiD,

@M&A I was so happy there were a lot of U's in the puzzle that I started on a U QUILT (as Nancy called it) for him. In the process I spotted a nice little threesome of U's climbing a ladder,

@Lewis, I found a double U. Sadly there was a paucity of doubles for U. But I added them anyway fr U

Now in the process of making what became a W quilt I realized that no one had noticed the crisscrossing DNAs, one down and one backward, Too bad bad it wasn't a reverse RNA which would have been a legit thing.

As I moved to the SouthEast I spotted the intersex triangle surrounding the SouthEast corner,
--> which then led me to includ both the GENDER melting pot
-->. and the four FM (or MF if you prefer) binary options.
---> at which point I remembered someone had mention the F-bomb when they discovered the pesky M/F
(which is the order I wrote them in)
--> so mow MF took on a whole new meaning
--> which gives a completely different rationale for Fs to go first

And thankfully my son has finished his essay.

Mohair Sam 5:24 PM  

@Chaos344 - Sag Harbor? Spent many days there as a kid - swimming, boating, hitting the shops. My big brother lived his life in Water Mill (owned the Penny Candy Shop on Route 27, you might know it), his wife from Shelter Island. We've visited Sag Harbor on and off over the years with them and still do when we visit her. The place is what dreams are made of. Don't die, Heaven is a step down.

@Quasi - What Hamptons? for sure - my folks couldn't figure why my brother had moved to "The end of the Island."

Whirred Whacks 5:27 PM  

Fun puzzle, Mr. Tausig. Thank you.

All of this M/F discussion reminded me of this short video from the Huffington Post:

Every single time Samuel L. Jackson said M/F in a movie .

Enjoy your long weekend!

Chaos344 5:57 PM  

Mohair Sam:

Small world. Of course I know the Penny Candy Store in Watermill. Used to take my nephew in there from time to time. The storefront is still there with the sign over the door. I never could understand how it has sat vacant for so long?

Thanks for the kind words about Sag Harbor. It was an idyllic place to grow up. Had relatives on Shelter Island too!

Aketi 6:36 PM  

@Whirred Whacks, haha you could fill an entire crossword puzzle and more with MFs from that clip. My brother the firefighter adores Samuel L Jackson because of the firefighters in my brother's firehouse were asked to be extras in one of SMJ's film. According to my brother,, he's a nice down to earth guy.

Mohair Sam 6:43 PM  

@Chaos344 - I've been behind the counter of the candy shop a few times. Incredible fun negotiating atomic fireball and Mexican hat prices piece by piece with intense six-year-old kids clutching a dollar or two in their hand. Maybe I ripped off your nephew for a nickel or two.

My sister-in-law has been too old to keep the place going for years. She has been close to selling several times, but the deals seem to fall through. I dunno, we kinda think the wonderful memories of 40+ years in that shop keep her from getting to the closing table.

Way off topic - sorry Rexites. Blasted nostalgia. I'm done

QuasiMojo 6:53 PM  

@MohairSam -- I used to go there a lot myself on our way to Montauk. If you need someone to manage it now, hmu! I used to go to the Candy Kitchen back in the day when it had real candy in jars and real ice cream sodas, or am I thinking instead of the Penny Candy store? Last time I was in Water Mill I was shocked to see the old convent hedge had been chopped down. All that sense of mystery and intrigue gone. :)

Numinous 7:06 PM  

Haven't read all the comments so. . . .

For the past couple of years I have followed a "girl" named Jazz. Jenkins. She was born male but since the age of four or younger, she has had a distinct preference for things feminine. She is about fifteen or sixteen now. Her journey has been difficult. She can be found on YouTube. In fact there are many clips about her. She's been featured in an ABC documentary and apparently has a "Reality Show" now. What she makes apparent is that she is not alone in the world, that she is not the only one like her. She appears publicly and answers questions and criticisms with stunning maturity. Her mother even says that sometime Jazz makes her feel like the child. Her maturity and clarity of purpose, in spite of a brief glitch when she was uncertain, has impressed me enormously. I wish some of the other kids I know and have known had had such clear understandings of themselves.

I thought the puzzle was pretty good if really easy, I did it in half my usual Thursday time. I suppose it's nice to see the NYT embracing contemporary issues or at least recognizing them. This might even be a landmark puzzle for the Grey Lady. I know the LGBTQ issue bothers some people but but it's here and not leaving any time soon so they all have to just grit their teeth and get used to it. Having followed Jazz's story and knowing a few other GENDER FLUID individuals I just have to say, let them live their own lives as they see fit without bowing to any GENDER Fascism.

Sorry if anyone else has mentioned Jazz before me. This whole issue, the fact that it is an issue bothers the hell out of me.

Karen 7:42 PM  

MFFM and I had no idea what the gimmick was till I got here.

Steve Henry Herman 8:50 PM  

Karen's experience was mine as well. MFFM, no clue (X-Y didn't work out). In 1969 I ran the Snake River rapids in a tiny raft, but it was in IDAHO. Finally realized the River doesn't stop at the border & got the NE.

Anonymous 11:17 PM  

I liked this puzzle very much. I liked the NYT's trumpeting it a bit less, but it's ok. They are justifiably proud, and Deb Amlen's personal connection is touching.

But I am compelled to say how much I hated Deb's FaceBook Live event about the puzzle. I watched it out of curiosity and because this puzzle is such an interesting and significant one. Fortunately, I had solved the puzzle before I watched, because Deb completely RUINED the puzzle for anybody who didn't know the solution. I don't think any solver out there would immediately jump to the fact that there were Schrodinger squares in the puzzle based on the vague clue "part of a house" which, as was immediately pointed out could be ROOF, ROOM, or WALL. Or maybe DOOR or HALL or LOFT or even WING. Constructors and editors have ambiguous clues like this all the time! In fact, the very first clue Deb enters, with great confidence, is such a clue, since OWEN's brother LUKE can also BE clued as "Actor Wilson".

Only somebody who already knew the solution would definitively state that OWEN had to be the answer to 19-Across and jump to how this puzzle works with zero crossing words on 1-Across, the second entry she put in anywhere. Shame! I think solving puzzles live with commentary might have promise in attracting new solvers, but this is not the way to do it.

Randy 11:21 PM  

Fun puzzle, easy for a Thursday but hard enough that it had a lot of a-ha moments after maybe a minute of being stuck, which is just how I like them. I got FFFF and couldn't figure out how the clue related until I read about it here. As a person who doesn't really identify with a gender it was nice to see some recognition for less mainstream sexual minorities.

SkippyFlipjack 11:59 PM  

This puzzle taught me the problem with Schrödingers -- sometimes you don't notice you're doing one, you just find the right answers and, well, done. Like a couple people above I saw the X and Y in the bottom corners and figured all corners would contain X's one direction and Ys in another, but alas no. I liked that in this particular puzzle "Not straight" wasn't what you'd expect.

Based on the hype (from Slate.com in particular) I expected more. Meh.

To Anonymous above: I don't know what the facebook live event was but I'm sure I'd absolutely agree. Anyone who confidently entered OWEN as the Wilson either knew the answer or was possessed of dumb luck.

Roy Leban 3:04 AM  

After reading the comments here and on Wordplay, I called an audible and changed slightly the way Puzzazz handles this puzzle. Originally,  as pointed out by @Tita A, Puzzazz automatically showed M/F in each Schrödinger cell when you finished the puzzle. However, this implies that M/F is the "correct" answer while the other answers of FM, M, and F are wrong. But they are just as correct — the puzzle is intended to be fluid and it's always our goal to match the intent of the constructor and editor.

In addition, it's clear that not everybody figured out the theme even if they completed the puzzle. Therefore, showing the M/F immediately takes away from the puzzle.

So ...

If you solve the puzzle (or go back to it), nothing changes in the puzzle when you complete it, no matter which combination of M, F, MF, or FM you have. Instead, a Show Explanation button appears at the top. For people who didn't completely figure out the theme, it clues them in that they missed something, but it doesn't spoil it. When you tap Show Explanation, M/F appears in red in the four Schrödinger cells.

Harry Keates 10:42 AM  

Did anyone else notice that the middle of the puzzle is shaped like a wave. I actually got the fluid part before I got the gender, because I thought it would have something to do with wave/fluid/etc. right off. I thought that was a great, and subtle addition. I think Rex missed some of the fill stuff to, like Dolly Parton and Cher being icons, and the not straight clue. Great puzzle.

Amelia 12:05 PM  

Feh or Meh.

Anonymous 5:49 PM  

I thought the "Q" in LGBTQ stood for "questioning," no?

Roy Leban 3:54 AM  

I got a couple of emails from people asking how I made the changes I described above. Sometimes I forget that not everybody who reads these blogs knows that I'm the founder of Puzzazz. Sorry for any confusion.

So, to clarify, I changed how Puzzazz handles this puzzle for everyone. There's no option that an individual solver can turn on or off.

The way this works is that Puzzazz does special handling of the NYT puzzle every day to restore it to match the print edition. We do this because the ancient .puz file format is pretty limited and doesn't support much of what gets done in crosswords today. On most days, this just means fixing the quotes and apostrophes, but several times a week, people who solve from the .puz file outside of Puzzazz are missing something. This can be something like shading in the grid or italics or symbols in clues, but it can also be pictures in the clues, merged clues that have been split apart, rebuses and Schrödinger cells that aren't handled properly, missing artwork in the grid, void cells, etc. The NYT's app handles, some, but not all, of these things.

We always match the print edition in appearance, but, because we can't see the print solution until the next day, and the constructor and editor's intent isn't always obvious, we can't always get it right. In this case, we goofed, and that became obvious as I read comments here and on Wordplay. We didn't handle it any worse than the NYT's app, but I knew we could do better. So, late Wednesday night, I decided we should change it.

While the change doesn't help people who already solved the puzzle, the NYT crossword has a pretty long shelf life. People who solved during the day on Thursday or who solve it in the future will get a better experience. So, thanks to everyone who commented.

(hopefully, this is my last comment here ... feel free to email me if you have more questions)

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

FFFF for me - guess I'm not as Ann-drogynous as I'd thought! Fun puzzle!

ShortShrift 8:49 AM  

Ditto, on both

rondo 10:03 AM  

MMFM, and that’s it. Too much MFing around.

This is OFL’s idea of a “good one”? And EASY? UGH! A SLOG through the MIRE in isolated corners and N and S subsections. And at least 19 threes, kinda high count. And in the SW TEN-ACE? Shoulda been clued “1972 World Series MVP Gene”. And then OFL doesn’t know of Willie SUTTON? Cmon. Gimme. Better than cluing it “Seattle ___”. Did have one s/o at OVERLOad.

The puz is OK on its own, but calling it a “good one” just because of the theme? Pretentious. And no reason for a big hooray, either. The puz finally caught up with the rest of the paper. Big deal. And QUEER doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with GENDERFLUID. That’s overbearing, as is the 35d clue “not straight” and answer ending in Y, a pompous, preachy misdirect. There’s even yeah baby Lucy playing XENA, who was in a lesbian relationship with Gabrielle, which is already 15-20 years ago. Nothing offensive or even new here, except this puz tries too hard to make PTS. Only new in that it got published.

I was hit on by a QUEER some 45 years ago, about the time FM radio was becoming a big deal. Nothing new about this ENTIRE MFing stuff to me. Don’t really care that it finally appeared in THE NYTXword. Not really great nor cutting EDGE.

spacecraft 11:31 AM  

Epic fail on two fronts: (1) I never got the theme--had MFF and never got to the SE--and (2) Got ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the ENTIRE EAST. Seriously. Other than the AK of WREAK and KIA, not another square east of the tenth column is filled. Two whole sections in which I knew nothing. Couldn't get a foothold anywhere.

Now that I see it, the theme makes sense; I just missed it. That doesn't bother me, but a DNF of this magnitude? Yikes! And they call this EASY? Oh dear God. This will have to go down as an incomplete pass.

Burma Shave 12:01 PM  

GAG YUAN SOONERS SPUNK

I thought it QUEER THE DANDY GEEK would OPT to WARE
a SHEET and GONEXT into THE SAUNA.
I SAYSO ‘cause there’s GENDERFLUID and DNA everywhere -
he’ll clean THE ENTIRE MESSUP when he wanna.

--- THE EDGE

rain forest 2:18 PM  

I don't want to brag, but I figured out the M/F possibility once I got ALVA, GEEK, and WARE, and then again in the due North, having gotten some of the words below 5A, F/MUSTY arrived, and so you could say I had all M/Fs. Okay, I do want to brag. Pretty good given I'd been away for 3 days playing golf with 9 friends and sampling too much wine.

I really liked the puzzle, and disliked Rex's write-up. He just can't help himself re this vendetta he has with Shortz/NYT. I never see a crossword puzzle as something that will shed light on a new awakening. If someone sees it as important that the NYT publishes one that lightly deals with a complex subject, a simple "thank you", or even no comment would be appropriate. Besides, a large portion of America still hasn't come around, and likely never will.

Excellent puzzle, Mr. Tausig.

Syndyland Solver 2:52 PM  

I was always told QUEER was considered insulting and to say gay instead. I guess this is no longer true?

Diana,LIW 2:53 PM  

Good for you, @Rondo and @Rainy.

OREGON was one of the best mid-directs ever. Thus, the NE claimed my dnf. And I did not get the M/F conceit. Clever.

I, too, thought QUEER used to be the Q in LBGTQ back when it was gutsy to use a word that had been a pejorative, but that now the Q refers to questioning.

For those who read my newspaper's headline in yesterday's post, the paper CHANGED the headline in its online version. Someone must have called them.

Happy Thursday all!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 3:15 PM  

Too clever for me by more than half.

Filled in all the squares (and the QUEERs, too), but couldn't see the MF-ing MFs, and might have spent all day resisting MESSUP for "revealing a secret" even if I had found the other MFs.

As an OREGONian, the Snake (river) clue was a quick gimme and definitely helped in the NE.

Not impressed by the rebus gimmick, and no fun at all.

leftcoastTAM 4:45 PM  

P.S. FUSTY old pen and paper solver here, no digital assists, checks, etc.

wcutler 3:45 AM  

IF you're still counting, I got MFFF, got the reveal, didn't understand at all how it applied till I came here. I also missed 11 squares in the NE, but never mind. I appreciated this puzzle so much more after reading the comments, particularly @phil phil's bit about the gender-fluid Bonobos apes (which I had never heard of). So I'm continuing my 10th anniversary thanks for this blog.

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