We came across the following post on Twitter:
The puzzle, published on the first night of Hanukkah, December 18, is said to resemble a swastika, leading to accusations that the New York Times had posted intentional Nazi imagery and that they were antisemitic.
When we conducted a search on this, we found that multiple news outlets had covered this, with an additional tweet showing the print edition of the paper with the same puzzle design, proving that it had not been doctored in any way.
When the crossword puzzle was first published, the design was described on the Times’ website by editor Will Shortz. Shortz said that the creator of the puzzle simply “started this grid in the middle and worked his way out”: Additionally, in a statement obtained by fact-checking site Snopes, the NYT defended the crossword describing it as a “common crossword design: Many open grids in crosswords have a similar spiral pattern because of the rules around rotational symmetry and black squares”.
Interestingly, we found out that this was not the first time they had been accused of this offence. In 2017, the New York Times Games account responded with this statement after they were accused of a similar offense: “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?’”
While there is no proof of sinister intent in the crossword puzzle design then, it is true that the New York Times published an image of a crossword puzzle that somewhat resembled a swastika shape on 18 December 2022, the first night of Hanukkah.