Is there a convention that states which order the parents are listed in a cross Variety A x Variety B? Is it ladies first? Or is this a male-dominated thing? Or is there no convention?
Generally it's listed female x male.
I agree with Elakazal, but if you're reading the older literature -- going back to the 19th century -- be warned that the old convention was to describe the hybrids as male-female (with a - rather than x). Sometime around the beginning of the 20th century (more or less) writers converted the convention and often got it wrong. So, you are likely to find some hybrids listed incorrectly as male x female, with no clue that this is the case unless you can find the original description of the hybrids.
For example, for many years the gorgeous rose 'Belle Portugaise' was listed as Rosa gigantea x Souv. de Mme. Leonie Viennot. I finally happened across an article written by the breeder (Cayeux) in which he specified that in this cross 'Souv. de Mme. Leonie Viennot' was the seed parent. He had gotten tired of climbing a ladder to pollinate his R. gigantea, and also hoped that by using the hardier type as the seed parent he could get hardier offspring. And he did!
Here is a link that might be useful: Rosa Gigantea Hybrids
My experience with older literature is that if there's no "x", assume nothing. I honestly didn't realize the older convention existed for a long time, because I'd found so many times when it had gone both ways.
Actually, even with modern literature, even with the "x", even when they when they say explicitly "X was the male and Y was the female", it's wise not to put TOO much faith in recorded pedigrees. Witness the recent revelations concerning the 'Honeycrisp' apple, which turns out not to be descended from either of the supposed parents, 'Honeygold' and 'Macoun'. Breeding is very recording-keeping-intensive, and mistakes happen.
I read the "x" as "by," as in "pollinated by." And it's true that there is a lot of confusion. Just last week I was looking at old strawberry varieties and noticed that on a single page a USDA expert had listed Temple (1943) as both "Aberdeen x Fairfax" (end of section 6) and "Fairfax x Aberdeen" (Table 2).
Here is a link that might be useful: Old Strawberry Lineage
You know, I noticed that exact same error just the other day! I'm trying to put together a big pedigree database for strawberry, and I was going through Darrow's book typing stuff in when I caught that.
Not very encouraging, eh? My guess is that the table is probably correct since it was probably copied from breeding records, while Darrow was probably writing from memory in the text and it never got caught in the editing, but you never know. One could probably track down the appropriate records (accurate or not) if sufficiently motivated, but I haven't worried too much about it.
Part of the problem may be that some crosses give virtually identical results in both directions. I have read at least one authority (I forget which one) who insisted that reciprocal crosses do not warrant distinct names. That was back in the time hybrids were still believed to be rare, and even second and third generation specimens were given Latin names.
So, to a casual writer This x That simply meant that the two species had been crossed, regardless of which was the mommy and which the daddy.
In other words, excessive formality gave way to casualness, which was then tightened into a newer formality -- with errors introduced along the way.