New York Times responds after readers accuse paper of swastika-shaped crossword puzzle

The New York Times has responded after being inundated with criticism prompted by the design of Sunday’s crossword, which appeared to be shaped like a swastika.

“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,” a spokesperson for the paper told

Social media users shared their outrage at the puzzle, which was published on the first day of Hanukkah, appearing to look like the Nazi Party symbol. Some argued that the pattern was a coincidence.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s expected to return to the Israeli premiership, separately blasted the paper on Sunday for an editorial in which the paper criticised his rightwing coalition.

“After burying the Holocaust for years on its back pages and demonizing Israel for decades on its front pages, the New York Times now shamefully calls for undermining Israel’s elected incoming government,” he tweeted on Sunday.

Mr Netanyahu didn’t mention the crossword controversy, but others appeared to connect the crossword shape to the editorial board’s criticism of the coalition.

“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,” the editorial published on Saturday said.

New York City Council member Kalman Yeger tweeted, “a hidden Happy Chanukah message in today’s @nytimes crossword?”

Councilwoman Inna Vernikov added “Seriously @nytimes!?”

This doesn’t appear to be the first time that such a controversy has happened with the paper of record. Responding to a similar controversy in late October 2017, The New York Times Games tweeted: “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?’”

“This was tweeted out the last time the NYT crossword puzzle layout generated a swastika,” Alexandria Erin tweeted. “I’ve seen other people calling the swastika pattern an inevitable result of rotational symmetry. Grant both of those things. The question becomes, why isn’t anyone *checking for* swastikas?”

Donald Trump Jr took to Twitter to slam the paper, writing: “Disgusting! Only the New York Times would get Chanukah going with this ... 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.”

“I’m just saying, if my entire job was editing the crossword of the New York Times, I would make extra sure I don’t accidentally publish a f***ing swastika a second time. Perhaps extra so on the first day of Hanukkah during a year of rising antisemitism,” Florence Ashley tweeted.

The Independent has reached out to The New York Times Games for comment.