A crossword puzzle in the New York Times paper this past Tuesday became the subject of some controversy when one of the words that showed up was offensive. The editor, Will Shortz — who is responsible for the crossword puzzle in question — came forward. He stated that his staff were oblivious to the word being offensive, as they live in “rarefied circles,” reports Fox News.
The word, “beaner,” that appeared in the New York Times crossword puzzle was a racial slur, one for which the New York Times has apologized for employing. This term is sometimes used as a derogatory slur for people of Mexican descent. It originates from the prevalence of pinto beans and other beans in Mexican cuisine. The Historical Dictionary of American Slang states that the racial slur was first seen in print in 1965, even though the word has been used since the 1940s. The term has also been used in more recent pop culture, including the 1980 film Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie.
A spokesperson from the New York Times spoke with a reporter from Fox News, apologizing in depth for the racial slur showing up in Tuesday’s crossword puzzle.
“Tuesday’s Crossword puzzle included an entry that was offensive and hurtful. It is simply not acceptable in the New York Times crossword and we apologize for including it.”
New York Times apologizing for an offensive crossword puzzle cluehttps://t.co/jqhGCelBJ4
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 2, 2019
Shortz went on to social media in the aftermath, utilizing his Twitter account to explain exactly how it was that the racial slur popped up in the crossword puzzle this week. The clue that was used for the offending word was “Pitch to the head, informally.”
“I am very sorry for the distraction about BEANER (2D) in today’s fine puzzle by Gary Cee. Neither Joel nor I had ever heard this slur before – and I don’t know anyone who would use it. Maybe we lived in rarefied circles.”
Shortz went on to cite other possibly offensive words that in fact have double meanings, in defense of he and his team. He also stated that he and his team discovered the other meaning of the word that appeared in Tuesday’s puzzle while conducting research. Shortz said that “any benign meaning of a word is fair game for a crossword.” The other word he used as an example was the word “chink,” wherein he stated that the word is “benign in the sense as a chink in one’s armor.” He did however, eventually go on to state that perhaps he needs to reconsider slurs that have benign definition “if enough solvers are bothered.”
“I want your focus to be on the puzzle rather than being distracted by side issues. But I assure you this viewpoint is expressed with a pure heart.”