Dan Feyer an unassuming, 33-year-old balding musician has a talent like no other: he can solve the fabled New York Times crossword puzzles in as little as a 1.5 minutes, including the immensely difficult Saturday version in less than six minutes.
Who is this guy? What kind of person knows the name of Gorbachev’s wife (Raisa), a synonym for no-good (dadblasted), the Rangers coach in 1994 (Keenan), a platinum-group element (iridium) and the meaning of objurgation (rant)?
The kind of person who whips through 20 crosswords a day (at least 20,000 in the last three years), who won this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and who has 100,000 puzzles saved on his computer.
“I feel I want to do them all, somehow,” Mr. Feyer said. “I’ve probably done more crosswords than anybody in the world in the last three years. I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of, but it’s a claim to fame.”
Watch the video of him knocking out a Saturday Times puzzle in astonishing speed. It’s uncanny. To his credit, Feyer insist that he doesn’t “know” many of these facts, but that they are merely good guesses based upon the available letters.
Yes, RAISA was a Tuesday-level gimme, I’m aware of an element called IRIDIUM, and I knew I’d heard of Mike KEENAN but couldn’t pull out the name without a bunch of letters. But the others came mostly from crosses — you’ll note that I had a single empty box in the NE corner for a while, because I hadn’t a clue what “objurgation” might mean! As you are no doubt aware, crossword skill isn’t necessarily about knowing everything, but about making some good guesses that form legitimate answers in both directions.
An interesting book would be about hacking the brain, collecting profiles of people like Mr. Feyer and Caitlin Burke, the one-letter Wheel of Fortune puzzle solver.