Daniel Avichail

How did I get into puzzle solving

Daniel Avichail (31)

So, how did I get into puzzle solving? It all started in late 2012, when I came across a Ukrainian talent show on Youtube. The contestant started off by asking one of the judges to scramble a 3x3x3 cube, after which he proceeded to do a blind solve on it. If that wasn’t impressive enough, in the next part of his act he unveiled one hundred scrambled 3x3x3 cubes, each of them numbered from one to a hundred. He had memorized all of them the night before and asked the judges to select any one of those hundred cubes, which he would then proceed to blind solve from memory. Watching him solve that cube left me no less impressed than the judges and audience at that show! Although I had seen Rubik’s Cubes before, this was the first spark that would soon pique my interest in learning to solve twisty puzzles.

Up until that point I had always thought that solving a Rubik’s Cube was virtually impossible, and that only someone who is a complete genius could succeed in doing so. I wasn’t even aware that there were larger cubes, such as the 4x4x4, the 5x5x5, and so on, let alone that there were other puzzles such as the Megaminx, Mastermorphix, and many countless others. Shortly after having seen that video, my younger sister had gotten a Rubik’s Cube as a present. When I first saw it my first instinct was to play around with it. I wasn’t too successful in solving it, but I noticed that there was a set of instructions with the cube. I started reading through them and decided that I will try to solve it step by step according to those instructions. I was very nervous about it and would turn each and every face with extreme caution, so as not to lose my place. Little by little I got the first layer solved! That alone felt like quite an accomplishment, and it gave me the motivation to keep going. Eventually I got the second layer solved as well, and went on to the last layer. The more of the cube that I’d solve, the more nervous I’d get that I might mess everything up. Finally, after about two hours of going through it step by step extremely slowly – I finally turned that last face to match the final colors, and the cube was solved! This must have been one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment I had ever felt. It’s not just about solving a Rubik’s Cube, but rather about achieving something that I had always thought of as impossible! I, just a regular guy, managed to solve the Rubik’s Cube! This was truly exciting!

From that point on I proceeded to the next stage, which was to memorize the steps and algorithms in order to be able to solve the cube without looking at the instructions. I would associate certain sounds with certain face turns. For instance, turning the upper face clockwise, which is annotated as U; I’d pronounce it as “oo” in my mind. Turning it counterclockwise, which is annotated as Ui, would be “ui” (like the “ooey” in “gooey”). R would be either “ra” or just “r” (sounding out the “r” sound) in my mind. So on and so forth. It took about two weeks until I was able to solve the 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube without looking at the instructions. Another accomplishment!

It wasn’t too long until I ordered 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 cubes. I remember how extremely complicated they seemed to me at first, despite being able to solve the 3x3x3 cube! It took probably another week or two to learn to solve the 4x4x4, and another week or two for the 5x5x5. The 6x6x6 and 7x7x7 were next, as well as the Megaminx, Pyraminx, and Mastermorphix. What’s interesting is that I recall being at a point where I could solve a 7x7x7 cube with relative ease, whereas the 3x3x3 Mastermorphix was an utter nightmare to solve – so much so that I hesitated to scramble it too often. The first time I solved it, it must have taken me two nerve-racking hours! The next five or so solves took probably an hour each. Perhaps twenty solves down the line I managed to get to a point of being able to solve it comfortably in under ten minutes.

As I’d continue getting new puzzles I’d face the same stumbling blocks, whether it was with 3x3x3 shape mods such as the YJ Star, YJ Heart, Zhisheng Egg, and the Ghost Cube, or with 4x4x4 shape mods such as the Megamorphix, Trjaber’s Octahedron, and the Master Axis Cube. The more I’d solve them the more my brain would adjust to the perspective-bending aspects of these puzzles, and the more comfortable I’d get with solving them.

Now, more than three years into my puzzle solving, I can proudly say that I typically solve the Mastermorphix in under three minutes, the 3x3x3 Ghost Cube in about six to eight minutes, and the (4x4x4) Master Axis Cube usually in under ten minutes. At the moment I have only twenty one puzzles in my collection, and for the time being that’s enough for me. For me it’s more about the puzzle quality and enjoyability of the solve, rather than quantity. I normally solve at least a puzzle or few each day, and go through all of them each week. It took a lot of patience and nerve-racking solves to get to this point, but for me it’s been totally worth it. I’m 31 years old and am glad to say that puzzle solving is the number one hobby that I turn to during my free time. So, if you’re thinking about getting started, I say – go for it and stick with it! Chances are you’ll be happy that you did.