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It is the Vatican of crossword puzzles, the apotheosis of wordsmithery and the arbiter of correctness in language and meaning.
But yesterday, after a withering social-media assault, The New York Times published a correction to a crossword clue that, editors conceded, “may have implied incorrectly that coal is a viable source of clean energy.”
The 58-word correction was vindication for scores of environmentally minded crossword puzzlers who assailed the Times on Twitter — and an insult to “clean coal” proselytes who maintained the clue was accurate and the correction was capitulation.
It’s also a minor humiliation for Will Shortz, the legendary New York Times puzzle editor who, according to the puzzle constructor, changed her original clue and inserted the error over her objection.
“They got pounded by their base,” former coal lobbyist Fred Palmer said in an interview. “For the Times to actually embrace coal is a mortal sin — and I’m Catholic.”
The Times’ backtracking shows the fading acceptance in the Biden years of the once-popular phrase “clean coal.” The Energy Department has abolished the Office of Clean Coal and Carbon Management established under President Trump, who romanced about “beautiful, clean coal.” And the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity recently changed its name to America’s Power.