New York Times’ Jewish errors spread to crossword puzzle

At least until today, I’ve never had to write about the New York Times crossword puzzle.

By Ira Stoll, The Algemeiner

Over more than two and a half years writing a press criticism column focused on The New York Times for The Algemeiner, I’ve covered nearly every part of the Times, including plenty that you might not have thought would be battlegrounds over Israel or Judaism. I’ve found material not just in the front-page news articles about Israel or the op-ed columns, but also in the food section, the travel section, movie reviews, and even Times dance and fashion coverage.

At least until today, though, I’ve never had to write about the New York Times crossword puzzle.

There’s a first time for everything, however. Sure enough, it looks like the Times‘ well known and well documented inability to handle basic matters of Jewish literacy has infected even the area of the paper given over to the entertainment of wordplay.

Wednesday’s Times crossword clue for 12 down was “Ninth month of the Hebrew calendar.” Thursday’s answer key gave the solution the Times was seeking as Kislev.

As anyone scrambling to prepare for Chanukah realizes, however, we’re already in Kislev, and it hasn’t been anywhere near nine months since Rosh Hashana, which literally means “head of the year.”

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As my fellow New York Sun columnist Benny Avni pointed out on Twitter, the Times “needs some editors who know anything about Judaism.”

While it is true that in ancient days the new Jewish year started in the month of Nissan, which includes Passover, and that counting by that order Kislev would be ninth, modern Jews tend to think of the calendar starting with the month of Tishrei. Rosh Hashana is the first day of Tishrei. By that count, Kislev is the third month. “Clueing it as 9th proves ability to google, but complete ignorance of current J[ewish] calendar,” Avni wrote.

Wikipedia has more information on this, offering both what it calls an “ecclesiastical/biblical” numbering scheme, by which Kislev is ninth, and a “civil” numbering scheme, by which Kislev is third.

If the clue had been “Ninth biblical month,” I’d have no complaint.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Times is willing to publish a correction on this one. If it does, it can then be added to the long and unfortunately ever-growing list of Times corrections on news related to Israel and Jewish topics.

Ira Stoll is the former managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post