A lesson about ‘refute’ from the NYT crossword puzzle

Lessons often come from unexpected places.

Yesterday, it was the New York Times crossword puzzle.

Clues for the crossword often push the boundaries of obscurity (that’s what makes the puzzles challenging), but rarely are they downright wrong.

This clue in the Times crossword was, though.

That corner of the puzzle remained blank for some time yesterday until I realized that the clue shouldn’t have been “refute.”

Refute,” after all, means to prove false or prove wrong.

A denial doesn’t refute an accusation. It merely challenges it. If suspects needed only a denial, rarely would anyone be charged or convicted of a crime. They’d simply say that rather than robbing the bank they were caring for dear Aunt Sophie’s sick bunny. Then they’d go on their way.

I eventually went on my way after completing Monday’s crossword, but not without wondering why no one refuted “refute.”

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