Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Cube and Me

This is a story about me and my speed cube or some may call it a rubik’s cube, 3x3x3 puzzle cube, etc.  When I started to get into mechanical puzzles, I starting thinking about getting a puzzle that provides a lot of value, that’s affordable, and fairly portable.  Then I remember my brief encounter with the rubik’s cube in the 80’s.  I remember being in third grade and my archenemy fiddling with a contraption while we stood in line on a cold winter morning.  My teacher decided that we were unworthy of entering the halls of learning because we had been exceptionally loud during the lining up.  The class was standing in columns of two and I had the absolute pleasure of being positioned right next to the class bully.  We would get into some kind of conflict at least once a day.  Later on I found out that he was holding a rubik’s cube and eventually I got one too.  The thing was my archenemy….  Just to make things simple, let’s just call him Mr. Twinkie or just Twinkie :)  Hehehee  Twinkie.  So Twinkie was going round bragging that he was going to be the first in the class to solve the puzzle.  Of course, I could not just stand there and let that happen.  So, I started to try to solve my own rubik’s cube.  There was even picture strategy guides at the time and I remember flipping through one at the store.  Although, no matter how hard I tried I could only get five out of the six colors to match.  This was driving me nuts.  One kid claimed that he solved it, but it was quickly revealed that he only switched the stickers.  Thus ruining his cube and creditability.  He ended up getting pounded by a few girls that were pretty hardcore about the whole cube thing.  I wasn’t getting anywhere with my cube until the day I threw it across my room and broke it.  At least I thought I did.  What had happened was that a piece popped out.  After close observation, I realized that I could align the colors back in place.  For those who might be skeptical about the discovery.  Note that while the technique of “popping” a cube is very well known now.  That was not the case when the rubric’s cube first came out.  At least not in my neck of the woods.  The next day I took my rubik’s cube to school.  Of course, Twinkie started rambling on about it being a new cube.  I told him that I could solve his cube.  He proceeded to mark his cube with his initials and then dared me to have it done by the end of the day.  You should have seen the look on his face when I handed him his cube.  He could not believe that I figured it out!!!  All of a sudden, Twinkie wanted to be my friend.  He wanted to know how I did it.  I told him to study the movement closely and he too could learn the secrets of the rubrik’s cube.  Lol!!!  While that wasn’t totally a lie it wasn’t the complete truth either.  After a few weeks, I ended up sharing my secret with the class because I like to share what I know but I’ll never forget Twinkie’s face.  Going on those good feelings, I thought I’d get a rubik’s cube. 

Things sure have changed.  Now there are all kinds of cubes.  It’s cool to see the progression of this puzzle.  If you do a quick Google search, you will find that there are some very devout followers of twisty cube puzzles.  I think that is awesome.  The rubrik’s cube reminds me of the glory days of arcades and comics.  So I thought I’d give it a chance again.  Oh by the way, I never was able to solve a cube the right way as a child.  After looking at some reviews, I decided to go with the DaYan 5 ZachChi Stickerless Speed Cube which I picked up at Amazon.  As the name implies, there are no stickers on this cubic.  The sliding of the cube can happen very quickly and it can be performed with one hand.  This cube is very light and I have to say that I like it more than the traditional rubik's cube because of the reasons mentioned above.  If you want it to slide even quicker then you can buy some silicon lubricant and spray a little bit it in the middle of the cube.  This makes the cube very quick.  The lub is cheap and you can buy it at wal-mart or a home improvement store.  I would also suggest that if you are going to get this cube that you make sure the descriptions states "stickerless" because I believe they also sell a sticker version.

So I thought that as an adult that I could easily come to the solution.  No grasshopper.  The cube will not reveal its secrets so easily.  Now that the 3x3x3 puzzle cube has been out for a while, there are many theories on solution methodology.  Some would say that a set of algorithms is the best method.  Others would say that algorithms are not required.  Computers have even been brought into the mix.  A guy demonstrated through computer computation that a cube can be solved with a max of 20 face turns.  Are you kidding me?!?!  I’m just getting started at 20 face moves.  The truth is I have not spent enough time with it yet and of this moment I still have not been able to solve the cube.  There is a whole lot more that could be said about this type of puzzle.  I like the fact that this puzzle has not died out like many others things from my childhood and  I tip my hat to those leading the way with new iterations of the rubik’s cube.  Hopefully I'll learn how to solve the cube one day.  That will be a great day. 

UPDATE 04/08/2012  Last Friday I finally did it!!!  That's right people, the day of glory has arrived!!  I couldn't leave this undone.  I ended up using the well known layer method found in the Rubik's cube website.  Special thanks to the Rubik's cube people for the solution guide and to Kevin and Oli for their encouragement.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Large Metal Puzzle 3

Hello again puzzle people!!!  The puzzle I’m going to talk about is simply called Large Metal Puzzle 3 from Mi Toys.  This puzzle was the first puzzle I got after seeing the Revomaze trailer.  I wanted to find something locally and I didn’t want to pay too much so I went to Barnes and Noble and found the Metal Puzzle for five bucks.  You can also find the puzzle at Puzzle Master and other websites.  The idea was to try out a mechanical puzzle and see if this was going to be a passing whim or something that I really enjoyed.  Although looking back I should have known better because I’ve been a big fan of Tangram for several years.  It quickly became apparent that I was hooked because I didn’t even wait to get home to open the thing.  The puzzle was out of the box before I even reached my car.  I’m pretty sure I spend a good half hour in front of my car before I broke out of my puzzle trance.  If I would have gotten attacked by bad guys the headlines for the news might have been “Puzzle guy gets pummeled” or “This puzzle saved my life”.

So Puzzle Master rates this puzzle a 5 out of 10 with a 10 being mind boggling.  The score is a fair one in my book because I was able to dissemble and reassembly it that evening.  This is an interesting puzzle because you can literally disassemble and reassemble it before someone and the person might not be able to figure it out without careful observation.  Another thing to note is that you can solve the puzzle without knowing how you did it.  I know because that is what happened to me the first time I solved it!!!  Taking some time to understand how to dissemble and reassemble the puzzle is what made it fun for me.  Once I understood the method for the solution, I tried to solve it with my eye closes or by changing the orientation of the puzzle itself.  For example, turning the puzzle upside down from the way you are use to solving it.  You’ll understand what I mean if you decide to get it.  However, the quality of the puzzle does have one drawback.  The metal coating comes off easily especially if you drop it or play with it for a bit.  This isn’t a big deal for me because the puzzle was so cheap but it definitely isn’t a high quality piece as far as materials.  While it isn’t especially difficult I would say that it is a great starter puzzle that is very affordable and fun.

Quick update.  Fellow blogger and puzzle inventor Scott Elliot let me know that there is a second solution in the comments section.  Thanks man!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hanayama Cast Chain Puzzle

I have to say that I was really looking forward to getting the Cast Chain Puzzle.  This is my second cast puzzle from Japanese manufacturer Hanayama and designed by Oscar Van Deventer.  The first being the Cast News Puzzle.  These are great puzzles because most fit well in your pocket and they are very affordable.  I was able to get the Chain Puzzle on sale but the regular price is quite reasonable.  You can find it at Puzzle Master and other websites.  First off, the puzzle looks great and feels good in my hands.  I also like the sound of the metal as I was trying to solve this thing.  The objective of the puzzle is to disassembly and reassembles the puzzle.  The Hanayama Company rates their puzzles difficulty between 1 and 6 stars with 6 being very difficult.  This puzzle is rated as a 6 so I was looking forward to the challenge.  The puzzle didn’t disappoint because it did take me a while to figure it out.

It was interesting how I solved the puzzle.  Don’t worry I’m not going to give the solution.  When I’m solving puzzles I sometimes imagine a scenario to make things more interesting.  For this puzzle, I imagined that I was trapped in a dungeon cell.  The cell door was locked by a chain that was completely wielded together but the demon guard didn’t wield one part right.  The puzzle part!!!  My wife thinks I’m a dork but the moment when I’m trapped in a dungeon cell by a demon guard I’ll be ready.  You wait and see.  Oh man now I feet like that kid from the Charlie Brown pumpkin patch movie.  Anyway, the puzzle arrived at my place in the evening and I played with it a little bit but I was not able to solve it.  That night I had a dream where I solved the puzzle and the next day I used the “dream method” to solve the puzzle.  It was kind of weird I know but hey it worked.  For me it’s not just about solving the puzzle.  I want to know how the puzzle works and how can I make it harder to solve.  Don’t get me wrong.  The thing was not easy but if you want to make the puzzle a bit more challenging then see the second pic.  You basically crisscross the end links.  In my opinion, this makes the puzzle diabolical especially if you hand the chain in this state to someone who has little experience with puzzles.  Overall, this is a great puzzle and I highly recommend it.  I would also say that you might want to wash your hands after using the puzzle because the metal smell will stay on them.  Of course, if you don’t mind your sandwich smelling like metal then go for it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hello Puzzle People!!!

Hello everyone!!!  Today I decide to take the plunge and start a blog about mechanical puzzles.  My collection is rather small at the moment and I don't know that much about puzzle mechanics so I thought Puzzle Rookie would be a fitting name for this blog.  The puzzle community has been great at answering my questions and I've met some really interesting and nice puzzle people (at least online).  The reason I became interested in puzzles was because I saw a short video clip about the Revomaze and I was instantly put in a trance. The funny thing is that I still don't own one but I hope to get one for my birthday which is swiftly approaching.  The thing just looks great and the challenge is suppose to be mind boggling.  In the next few days, I'm planning to add my two cents on my puzzle collection.  I received the Cast Chain Puzzle yesterday so I'll probably start with that one since it was so much fun to solve!


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