The New York Times crossword puzzle editor issued an apology on Tuesday after the word “Beaner” was used as the answer to a New Year’s Day puzzle clue of “Pitch to the head, informally.”
Beaner is considered a disrespectful term to those of Hispanic origin. A beanball is a term used for hitting a player in the head with a baseball.
Will Shortz, the Times's crossword puzzle editor, wrote on Twitter that neither he nor the puzzle’s author “had ever heard the slur before.”
“I am very sorry for the distraction about BEANER (2D) in today’s fine puzzle by Gary Cee,” Shortz wrote. “Neither [crossword puzzle author] 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 then defended the use of the word, comparing it to other words or phrases that can be racial slurs but can also have other meanings, particularly in crossword puzzles.
“My feeling, rightly or wrongly, is that any benign meaning of a word is fair game for a crossword,” he wrote. “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 (benign in the sense as a chink in one’s armor), etc. These are legitimate words.
"Perhaps I need to rethink this opinion, if enough solvers are bothered. I want your focus to be on the puzzle rather than being distracted by side issues," he added. “But I assure you this viewpoint is expressed with a pure heart.
“Meanwhile, for any solver who was offended by 2-Down in today’s puzzle, I apologize," Shortz concluded.
Shortz has been the editor of the Times's crossword since 1993.
A New York Times spokesperson told TheWrap.com on Wednesday that the entry in question is “simply not acceptable.”
“Tuesday’s Crossword puzzle included an entry that was offensive and hurtful,” the spokesperson said. “It is simply not acceptable in The New York Times Crossword and we apologize for including it.”
The first crossword puzzle was published in 1913 in New York World, a newspaper that existed from 1860 until 1931.
Crossword puzzles began to become popular in the 1920s, but the Times didn't begin publishing them until 1942.
A 1924 New York Times editorial called crossword puzzles “a primitive form of mental exercise.”