NYT Takes Heat for Crossword Puzzle's Shape

Many people said Sunday's game resembled a swastika, and right before first night of Hanukkah
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2022 7:22 AM CST
Updated Dec 24, 2022 4:00 PM CST
NYT Takes Heat for Crossword Puzzle With Disturbing Shape
Stock photo of a crossword puzzle hopefully not in the shape of a swastika.   (Getty Images/BrianAJackson)

When Caitlin Lovinger analyzed Sunday's crossword puzzle for the New York Times, the 23rd for the newspaper by data analytics consulting manager Ryan McCarty, she gushed over its puns and jokes, as well as its shape. "I love the geometry in this puzzle—so many stair steps!" she wrote. But other puzzle aficionados weren't so thrilled with said geometry, noting that the puzzle, entitled "Some Theme's Missing," actually resembled a swastika, and worse yet, appeared right before the first night of Hanukkah.

"What the hell, @nytimes?" Democratic strategist Keith Edwards posted online, per Yahoo News, showing an image of the puzzle. Another noted in the comments section for Lovinger's crossword column: "It would be good if the puzzle editors addressed this and someone takes responsibility. Who cares if it was 'unintentional'? Isn't that what editors are for?" Yet another claimed that this has apparently happened at least twice before in the Times, in 2014 and 2017, and an October 2017 tweet by the paper's "Games" Twitter account appears to back up at least one of those instances.

"Yes, hi. It's NOT a swastika," that tweet, which remains online, reads. "Honest to God. No one sits down to make a crossword puzzle and says, 'Hey! You know what would look cool?'" McCarty's own explanation (published before the swastika commotion) offered a different shape that he saw when creating the puzzle. "This grid features one of my favorite open middles that I've made as it pulls from a variety of subject areas," he says in Lovinger's column. "I had originally tried to make it work in a 15x15 grid but then decided to expand the grid out to a Sunday-size puzzle with a fun whirlpool shape." The crossword's appearance comes amid a spike in antisemitism across the US, including recent rants by Kanye West. (Read more New York Times stories.)

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