Shakespeare Expert Puzzled By Shylock Crossword Flap

Note:  This letter appeared in Tablet Magazine on July 8, 2013.

Letters to the Editor
Tablet Magazine

To the Editor:

Barry Edelstein, quoted in Adam Chandler’s piece in “The Daily Scroll” on the Shylock crossword puzzle incident, misses the point. The question is not one’s interpretation of the play, “The Merchant of Venice” as to whether Shylock was solely an anti-Semitic stereotype or not. Crossword puzzle users do not get into these complex analyses.

What the makers of the puzzle understood in writing the clue is that most readers will recognize the name as representing a Jew, but, of course, a very particular kind of Jew, a usurer and heartless avenger. As Edelstein himself recognizes, over the centuries that has been the perception of who Shylock is and what he represents.

Our point was that in looking for a clue to provide the answer “Jew” to fill in the boxes, the crossword maker could have chosen any one of tens of clues which would have produced the answer of Jew. To select the one that conjures up in most peoples’ minds the worst stereotype of a Jew was exactly what was so offensive.


We were pleased that Tribune Media Services, as well as The Los Angeles Times and Hartford Courant, apologized for this mistake. Edelstein’s understanding of the complexity of Shylock as a complex character is an interesting subject for discussion. That, however, has nothing to do with this incident.


Abraham H. Foxman
National Director 

More from this Section