The Dec. 18 New York Times crossword puzzle, published on the eve of Hanukkah, disturbed readers and elicited online backlash with a design resembling a swastika.
Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin tweeted, “Meanwhile, on the first night of Hanukkah the anti-Israel New York Slimes issues a crossword puzzle that looks like a swastika. Of course, when pointed out, they claimed it was a coincidence. What a sick and sad history.”
Brooke Goldstein, the founder of End Jew Hatred and director of the Lawfare Project, posted an image of “End Jew Hatred” projected onto the Times’ building and tweeted, “The New York Times has had a hard time telling the truth about Israel and Jews—this week they published a crossword in the shape of a swastika. @EndJewHatred decided to help them out during this time of rising Jew hate. Share this image which was projected on the NYT in NYC!”
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “Disgusting! Only the New York Times would get Chanukah going with this is the crossword puzzle. Imagine what they would do to someone who did this and was not ideologically aligned with them? I’ll give them the same benefit of the doubt they would give those people…EXACTLY ZERO.”
Filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman joked that Ye and Kyrie Irving must be responsible: “This ain’t #escher but a #swastika #1st day of Chanukah is today ! Here is Today’s @nytimes !! WTF! Is this the work of @ye and the basketball antisemite!”
Some Twitter users observed that the puzzle’s clues also appeared to have veiled Nazi references. User BCHenrock tweeted, “‘Boxcars’ and ‘Brandenburg Gate’ are two clues back-to-back in the middle of the swastika design in the @nytimes crossword puzzle. Bro, are you f****** kidding me??”
Former New York congressional candidate Brian Robinson wrote, “Not letting this go. @nytimes loves to push the limit with Jews. Ok, this is far beyond any conceivable limit. Not only is this clearly a Swastika, but the answer to #60 across is a monument the Nazi’s used as a party symbol. Answer for it @nytimes.”
The answer to 60 across, “Style of column at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate,” was “Doric.”
Haaretz reporter Sam Sokol asked the obvious question: “How did this get approved without somebody noticing?”
Jewish Journal columnist Blake Flayton noted that this shape of design had apparently been published by the Times before in 2017, provoking similar outrage. Columnist Joseph Steinberg also cited the previous publication of the design and expressed skepticism: “The first time, in 2017, the @NyTimes recieved [sic] the benefit of the doubt. The second time, on the day after its editorial board published a piece criticizing the world’s only Jewish state, and on #Hanukkah eve, it’s hard to be so naive.”
The puzzle was designed by Ryan McCarty, a frequent contributor to the Times with 22 previous crosswords published. The Times described how McCarty constructed the puzzle: “He started this grid in the middle and worked his way out, stirring in a heap of fresh, lively vocabulary, including 20 debut entries.” McCarty described his puzzle as possessing “a fun whirlpool shape” which he hoped readers would enjoy.
A spokesman for the Times responded to the controversy stating, “This is a common crossword design: Many open grids in crosswords have a similar spiral pattern because of the rules around rotational symmetry and black squares.”
The Times has long received criticism for its coverage of Israel and New York Jewish schools. On Sunday, the paper also faced harsh words from Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu for its failure to properly cover the Holocaust.