The cameras were set to shoot for only eight minutes.
“Oh, it won’t take that long,” Dan Feyer said, with the hint of a smile.
The pressure was on. Mr. Feyer, 33, a soft-spoken, balding musician, had come to a photo studio at The New York Times to demonstrate one of his odder talents.
With the clock ticking and the shutters clicking, he put pencil to crossword. Not just any puzzle, but the Saturday one from The New York Times — the week’s hardest, notoriously clever and tricky. Fiendish, even, some would say. A form of mental cruelty. There are people who spend hours on this puzzle, people who give up, people who won’t even touch it. And then there is Dan Feyer.
His left hand tracked the clues while his right skittered over the grid. He pressed his lips together and grimaced. He erased, and rapidly filled in more boxes. Then he paused, erased again, and resumed skittering. Nearly five minutes had passed and he still seemed to be working the top left corner of the puzzle, the very beginning. He mumbled once and erased three more times. Was he in trouble? He wrote something, looked up, put his pencil down.
Done. Five minutes, 29 seconds. Penmanship, neat as a nun’s. Mr. Feyer, in jeans, sneakers and a black T-shirt, hadn’t broken a sweat.
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.
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