Spence (22) died along with his father Noel (58), and brother Graham (30) last Saturday after they were overcome by fumes while trying to rescue a dog from a slurry pit on their Down farm.
Irish Examiner’ farming crossword featured a clue with the answer ‘Nevin’ which directly referred to the player’s death.
The newspaper’s editor Tim Vaughan has apologise via a radio interview for any insensitivity.
The apology came after complaints had been lodged to both to the newspaper and local radio stations, as well as comments on Twitter.
“It should not have been published under any circumstances. It has caused offence and for that I unreservedly apologise,” Mr Vaughan said.
“I am trying to find out how it got published in the crossword this morning in the FarmExam. It shouldn’t have.
“I, as editor, I take full responsibility for everything that is published in the newspaper.
“At the end of the day it should not have been published. It is insensitive in the extreme and I will be apologising to the Spence family and I apologise unreservedly to anyone else who has been offended by its publication.”