The New York Times on Wednesday deleted several tweets from its Wordplay Twitter account that rebuked a user for “putting people in danger” after the user joked that people who can complete the paper’s crossword puzzle are allowed “to execute one pundit of your choice.”
“We’ve deleted some tweets from yesterday that were against our social media guidelines for the newsroom,” read a terse statement from the @NYTimesWordplay account.
Reps for the Times declined to comment, but the tweets were deleted minutes after an inquiry from TheWrap about the NYTimes Wordplay account’s original series of tweets complaining to a Twitter user with the handle “a paw stamping on a human face forever” about the tweets: “Your ‘joke’ is putting real people’s lives in danger. Do you also yell ‘Fire!’ in theaters?”
“I’m still somewhat in awe of the fact that they took something so obviously whimsical and unrooted in reality so very seriously,” the Twitter user, who identifies as a 17-year-old from California’s Orange County named August, said via direct message. “It’s hilarious but also kind of sad.”
On Tuesday, August tweeted a joke about the Times’ notoriously tricky crossword puzzle: “If you’re the first to complete the New York Times crossword puzzle on any given day and are able to deliver conclusive evidence of this feat, the NYT editorial staff allow you to execute one pundit of your choice. Full legal amnesty and all.”
That didn’t sit well with someone at the official Twitter account for the paper’s crossword and wordplay division, who then launched into a lengthy back and forth with August.
“Whoa there, cowperson, we don’t joke about executing journalists around these parts,” the Times account said. “It’s not funny. Someone will listen to you and think you are serious. No one on our staff has done anything of the kind and if you had a modicum of compassion, you wouldn’t post something like this.”
“I can’t believe my Twitter beef of the day today is with the New York Times crossword puzzle department,” August responded, continuing with the joke. “I personally consider myself politically anti-journalist execution.”
The Times account persisted, at one point tagging “Matilda” actress Mara Wilson and columnist Molly Jong-Fast demanding to know why they were following the “a paw stamping on a human face forever” account.
“A ‘joke’ about executing journalists is the height of unfunny, especially when you’ve gone through active shooter training as I have” NYTimes Wordplay continued. “Molly Jong-Fast, Mara Wilson, you really follow this person?”
As August told TheWrap via direct message, “It’s hilarious but also kind of sad that they felt compelled to tag my friends @MollyJongFast and @MaraWilson so as to like, dogpile me further, and given their conduct through all of this, I’m not at all surprised that someone (presumably) higher up decided that it wasn’t a good representation of the company.”
You can read the full back and forth below: