Julieanne Smolinski, 28, a New York-based writer for GQ and xoJane.com, said Saturday's puzzle was in error when it provided "wack" as a clue for the answer "illin," the New York Post reported Wednesday.
"These are not the same things, at all!" Smolinski wrote in an e-mail to the Times.
Crossword editor Will Shortz replied with dictionary citations defining "illin" as "stupid, insane" and "wack" as "worthless, stupid."
"So it seems to me the clue is fine," he wrote. "I appreciate your writing. Keep up the good solving."
The meanings of the words are "kind of hard to articulate if you're not in the culture," said Marvet Britto, head of The Britto Agency, which has worked with many hip-hop artists.
"No one would ever guess that the synonym for wack would be illin," she said. "You have to understand the context of how it's used. If you say 'ill,' then it means cool and good, hot. If you say 'illin,' then it's the opposite."