New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz issued an apology late Tuesday for a word used in the New Year’s Day puzzle that was considered by some readers as an offensive slur.
The answer to clue 2-Down in Tuesday’s puzzle was “BEANER,” which is a derogatory term used for people of Hispanic origin.
“Neither Joel [Fagliano] nor I had ever heard the slur before – and I don’t know anyone who would use it. Maybe we live in rarefied circles,” Shortz said in a statement issued to Twitter. “Meanwhile, for any solver who was offended by 2-Down in today’s puzzle, I apologize.”
“Tuesday’s Crossword puzzle included an entry that was offensive and hurtful,” a spokesperson for the New York Times told TheWrap. “It is simply not acceptable in The New York Times Crossword and we apologize for including it.”
The original clue to 2-Down in Tuesday’s puzzle, which was written by Gary Cee, was “Pitch to the head, informally.” And Shortz defended the use of the word by explaining that in past puzzles, a “benign” meaning of the word was fair game.
“This is an issue that comes up occasionally with entries like GO O.K. (which we clued last April as “Proceed all right,” but which as a solid word is a slur), CHINK (which is benign in the sense as a chink in one’s armor,” etc. These are legitimate words,” Shortz said.
Shortz added that if enough people are offended, he would rethink this opinion on benign uses of otherwise offensive slurs.
“I want your focus to be on the puzzle rather than being distracted by side issues,” Shortz said. “But I assure you this viewpoint is expressed with a pure heart.”
— NYTimes Wordplay (@NYTimesWordplay) January 1, 2019