PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. At the tennis table center on Tompkins Ave., Dan Feyer prepared to solve a crossword puzzle, something he has done countless times before.
He triggered the timer on his phone and started writing, the pencil wriggling restless through the grid, his eyes just glancing at the clues. Without a moment of hesitation, he stopped the clock and jotted down the time above the finished crossword: two minutes and 15 seconds.
Feyer was one of the many crossword luminaries that New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz, who lives in Pleasantville and owns the tennis table center, invited to the crossword puzzle tournament that happened there Friday night.
The winner of the last two American Crossword Puzzle Tournaments, which Shortz founded in 1978 and every year attracts 700 competitors to a Brooklyn hotel, Feyer is perhaps the fastest crossword solver in the country.
He didnt compete in the Friday tournament Shortz said it wouldnt be fair, but found time to show off his skills.
His secret? Lots and lots of practice, he said. I solved thousands, tens-of-thousands, of puzzles in the last year.
By practicing continuously, he eventually learned all words and clues, he said.
Theres only so many words in the English language, he said. Any word that is short and has a lot of vowels shows up a lot.
But Feyer, who is 34 and started solving crosswords only four years ago, also mentioned that he has the right brain for puzzles, although he could not explain how it works.
I dont know how I turned out to be good at it, he said.
To challenge himself, Feyer likes to do cryptic crosswords, a more difficult kind of crossword in which each clue is a word puzzle itself.
A cryptic crossword would take me half-hour to an hour to solve, he said. A normal one can take him less than 1.5 minute, if he does it on the computer. I can type faster than I can write, he said.
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