New York Times Jewish Errors Spread Even to Crossword Puzzle


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, 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.”

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 that 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 Timescorrections on news related to Israel and Jewish topics.



  1. Nissan is called Chodesh H’rishon in the Torah. Avni wrote ” modern Jews tend to think of the calendar starting with the month of Tishrei”
    Modern not Orthodox!
    Kislev is the 9th month for those who follow the Torah.

  2. Actually, when counting Hebrew months by number, Kislev IS the 9th month, period.
    When starting with Rosh Hashana, the months are never counted by number; only by names.

  3. The Algemeiner is working too hard. Kislev is the ninth month, since Nissan is the first (hachodesh HAZEH rosh chadashim, Shemos 12:2).

  4. V’horaya – have you ever gotten a calendar in the mail from a tsedekah in Nissan?! Everybody knows Tishrei is the first month making Kislev the third month!

    • Common sense is one thing, facts are another. Also, it is common for crossword puzzles to give unusual definitions. It is certainly true that it’s the ninth month, although perhaps we would have answered wrong at first try.
      True facts remain true even if they get printed on the NYT….


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