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
- 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)
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]