These two questions come up so often that I am posting this forum thread to answer them. Other players, feel free to add wisdom. Here goes . . .
Dear New Crypto-Solver:
Welcome! You've found a great puzzle site, and a supportive group of players.
To answer the top question: No, Bansaisequoia is not a robot, and neither is Nanrich or any of the other super-fast players. They are real people who have practiced for many hours and who have a few key talents: they are good at seeing word patterns, they remember quotes they've solved before, and they type fast. Also, they have fast internet connections that don't add slow seconds while the screen loads.
It can be daunting, when you first start at this site, to take whole minutes to solve a single puzzle, only to discover that somebody else solved the same puzzle in under 12 seconds -- or even under 6 seconds in a few cases. Ridiculous, right? Well, yes, it is ridiculous. But not impossible.
Okay look, for now, just focus on challenging yourself and pay no mind to the super-solvers. No one here, not even Bansais or Nanrich, was able to solve cryptograms in under 12 seconds from the start. It took them tons of practice to get that fast.
"But is it even physically possible to type a long quote in under 20 seconds?"
Yes, it is -- in fact, it's easy if you are a touch typist. Remember: each letter of the alphabet autofills in each space where it appears as soon as you type that letter once -- which means you never have to type more than 26 letters (usually under 20) to solve a whole cryptogram. So if it were just a matter of typing speed, you could solve even the long quotes as fast as you could type about 20 letters.
What takes time and practice is knowing which letters to type. Here is an excellent tutorial that can help you practice: http://www.cryptograms.org/tutorial.php
Also, for encouragement, check this other forum thread: http://www.cryptograms.org/forum/showthread.php?t=669
In that thread, a few players have posted YouTube videos that show their screen as they solve puzzles in real time. To see their real-life crypto-solving screen videos, just scroll through the entries and look for the YouTube links.
- Bansais is not a robot.
- The key to speed is practice.
- You never have to type more than 26 letters to solve any cryptogram.
- Study the tutorial: http://www.cryptograms.org/tutorial.php
- Watch YouTube videos of players solving on-screen: http://www.cryptograms.org/forum/showthread.php?t=669
With steady practice you, too, may eventually solve an occasional puzzle in under 30 seconds. And then one day you may hit an especially easy puzzle and surprise yourself with a personal record, maybe even under 20 seconds. This is how it happens.