On Sunday, the night before the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah began, the New York Times crossword puzzle closely resembled the Nazi Party swastika. Twitter users quickly called out the juxtaposition.
“What the hell, @nytimes?” tweeted Keith Edwards, a Democratic strategist.
Jewish Journal columnist Blake Flayton tweeted: “Today’s New York Times crossword is um…making me nervous.”
After another user said the swastika was “obviously unintentional” and accused Edwards of virtue signaling, he said he didn’t think his anti-swastika position “would be a controversial take.”
The puzzle’s author, Ryan, wrote that it has “a fun whirlpool shape.” Commentating on Sunday’s puzzle, Times crossword columnist Caitlin Lovinger wrote, “I love the geometry in this puzzle — so many stair steps! — and feel that it contributes to a certain evenness in the solve.”
In a statement, the Times’ executive director of communications, Jordan Cohen, said only the puzzle’s symmetry, not its overall design, was intentional, Newsweek reported.
“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,” Cohen said.
On Twitter, a self-proclaimed “#Jewish crossword constructor” named Sam Buchbinder agreed.
“Ya’ll need to understand something about crossword construction,” he tweeted. “Rotational symmetry, which is the majority of xwords, lends itself to ending up with this pattern often. It just so happens to be on a Sunday, so more people noticing.”
Indeed, it’s not even the first time for the New York Times. Five years ago, the newspaper’s Games section tweeted to clarify a similar incident: “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?’”