October 16, 2009

Facing My Twisty Puzzle Demons

I was hanging around Eureka thinking about buying a twisty puzzle of some sort. Back in college I had learned an algorithm to solve the 3x3x3 Rubik's Cube, but I had never solved it on my own. Now that I'm really into puzzles, I wondered if I would have been able to do it without help. I doubt it, but who knows!

Anyways, I was looking for something a bit different to try out my sequential/twisty puzzle skills: I had the fear that I would be terrible at them, so had been avoiding them up to this point. I was thinking about getting a Triple 2x2x2 Cube, but when I talked to David, the owner of the store, he recommended that I give Cmetrick Too a try. It looked like an interesting little puzzle so I decided to give it a shot.

It is a bit tricky to imagine how this puzzle works, but I'll give it a try: there are four balls enclosed in the frame, each of which has six colored discs, four of which are visible. Adjacent balls share a disk that is not visible, because it is hidden by the frame. The disks are double-sided and are the same color on both sides. To manipulate the puzzle, you rotate the balls, which exchanges the position of the disk.

The picture on the left shows one of the balls moving toward the southeast corner of the picture. The little sliver of white between the green and the yellow discs is the 'hidden' disk. As the ball continues to rotate, this hidden disk will end up at the top, and what was on the bottom will end up in the shared/hidden position between the southern ball and the eastern ball.

The objective of the puzzle is to get each ball to be all one color, with the white discs in the hidden positions between the balls. An alternate objective is to get each face the same color, like all blue on top, all green on the bottom, all red on left/right, and all yellow on front/back, with the white faces hidden.

I set about trying to achieve the first objective, and it took me about 10-15 minutes to solve it. Not very hard at all! I was a bit disappointed because I was hoping for a bit more of a challenge. I tried the second objective, and it wasn't any more difficult. Oh well! It was still fun, but easier than I expected. I thought the mechanism was pretty cool: the way the pieces exchange is nicely done.

There is a harder version of this puzzle called Cmetrick Too Hard that has colored dots in the middle of each disk that uniquely identify each disk. The objective on this is the same as the Cemetrick Too, but all the dots must match on the top, bottom, left/right, and front/back. I haven't tried this version yet.

It was only about noon at this point and I had nothing else to do for the day, so I decided to head back to Eureka and pick up something that was hopefully more difficult. I ended up purchasing the Triple 2x2x2 Cube, which I thought would keep me busy for a while.

My thinking was that if I only scramble one of the 2x2x2's, it would just be a somewhat awkward 2x2x2. That way, it could be like a graduated puzzle where first I try to solve 1, then I try to solve 2, then I try to solve all three. Hopefully this would keep me busy for a while!

First I scrambled just one cube and worked on solving that. It took me a little while, but I was able to adapt the algorithm I used for solving the 3x3x3 after a bit of fiddling. Because there are no centers or edges, it is possible to end up with a parity issue that can't be addressed with the algorithm I know, but I just got around this by fiddling with it for a bit and eventually the parity issue went away. Not the most graceful approach, but it worked (eventually).

As expected, scrambling and solving the full puzzle wasn't really any different, it was just somewhat repetitive. I found it easiest to solve the two ends first and then solve the middle, because it is a bit easy to get confused when the end cubes are scrambled. I made a lot of mistakes so it took me a while, but eventually I solved the whole thing.

The construction is not perfect, but it doesn't have the nice smooth operation of a standard rubik's cube. It jams up fairly easily and there are gaps between the cubes that you can see. It is quite cheap though, so that makes it ok by me! Overall a fun little puzzle.

2 comments:

  1. Have you tried the Rubik's 360? I've found it to be quite challenging. Math not as useful as dexterity, it would seem ...

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  2. No, I haven't tried it yet. It does look like an interesting challenge though, so I'm sure I will give it a try at some point!

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