The New York Times is being ripped by social media users for publishing what they deemed to be a “swastika”-shaped crossword puzzle on the first night of Hanukkah.
The fraught Sunday brain-teaser, entitled “Some Theme’s Missing,” had been concocted by Washington, D.C.-based consulting manager Ryan McCarty, who has formulated 22 other puzzles for the paper.
“Thrilled to have my first Sunday puzzle in The Times! This grid features one of my favorite open middles that I’ve made as it pulls from a variety of subject areas,” McCarty gushed in a section of the paper entitled constructor notes.
He wrote that he’d “originally tried to make it work in a 15×15 grid but then decided to expand the grid out to a Sunday-size puzzle with a fun whirlpool shape.”
However, astute viewers were quick to point out that the crossword’s silhouette bore an uncanny resemblance to a swastika, a symbol of hate during the Nazi regime.
“Disgusting! Only the New York Times would get Chanukah going with this is the crossword puzzle,” fumed Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter. “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.”
“This is the NYTimes crossword puzzle today on the first day of Hanukka. What the hell, @nytimes?” seconded Keith Edwards, the Communications Director at Nikki Fried for Governor.
“Folks are making hay over today’s @nytimes crossword layout,” criticized another aghast user. “If the swastika is unintentional, you’d think an editor along the way would have caught it. And on the first day of Hanukkah, no less.”
Some critics accused the newspaper of subliminal messaging given its alleged track record of publishing anti-Israel content.
“‘Today’s Crossword Puzzle from the New York Times for Hanukkah,” wrote SAFE CUNY, a coalition of City University of New York scholars and students dedicated to the Zionist movement. “Pretty much sums up the @nytimes for the past few years in regard to Jews and Israel.”
Meanwhile, Jewish media conglomerate Israel National News pointed out that the swastika crossword was published following what they deemed to be an antisemitic Op-Ed by the Times Saturday, the Daily Mail reported. The piece warned that Benjamin “Netanyahu’s government, however, is a significant threat to the future of Israel — its direction, its security and even the idea of a Jewish homeland.”
They also posted a poll, asking readers if the puzzle’s design was “intentional Nazi imagery or an unfortunate coincidence?” Of the 440 votes, nearly 85% deemed the move to be deliberate.
The Times has yet to comment on the controversy.
And while many of the publication’s sympathizers claimed the crossword’s shape to be coincidental, some pointed out that the paper had been accused of publishing swastika-shaped puzzles before in 2014 and 2017.
The Times addressed the latter crossword in a 2017 tweet, writing: “Yes, hi. It’s NOT a swastika. Honest to God. No one sits down to make a crossword puzzle and says, ‘Hey! You know what would look cool?’”