On Christmas day in 2011, my uncle gave me a Rubik's Cube. I think most know of this infamous and popular puzzle; it consists of a cube with a different color on each face. It is divided up in to three layers on each axis, allowing each side of the cube to turn; once the puzzle is scrambled, the goal is to turn the sides of the puzzle until each side of the puzzle is a solid color. When I first started playing with the cube, I, like most, found it impossible to solve, but for some reason it held my attention in an odd way. I kept fiddling with it and one day as I was absentmindedly turning the puzzles hopelessly scrambled sides, it occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to complete it without outside help, and that, since nobody I knew could solve one, I would have to turn to the internet. A few Google searches later, I had found what I was looking for; a video tutorial explaining the process for solving the cube step by step. I spent all day sitting in front of the computer watching the video over and over and, eventually I started to get it (some call this cheating, but believe me, it's not!). It took me another full day to get to where I could do it by myself, but by the end of December, I was far more proficient at solving the cube than I previously ever even dreamed of being. For those of you who may be wondering, the secret to solving the cube is a process of looking at it in a specific way and then making moves accordingly. You also follow a sort of plan, something that could be likened to a special mathematical equation; The elements themselves remains forever the same, but equation can have it's variables substituted in an infinite number of ways and still arrive at a solution every time, each term dependent on the one before it.
I quickly succumbed to the powers of the cube and soon I was using every second of my spare time solving it over and over, trying to to get faster and learn more efficient techniques. Soon, all of the stickers wore off of my cube as I tried to lubricate it to make it turn better, and in the process of finding a new one, I found that out about a whole new type of cube called a "Speedcube". These are Rubik's cubes that often look the same as the original model, but have a different internal design that allows them to be moved unbelievably fast. Hearing these things, I bought one immediately, a Dayan Zanchi, and was beyond impressed with it's performance. I could solve way faster than before and hone my skills even further.
As I spent more time with the cube I began to gain an understanding of how all the moves interacted with each other, why they worked, and how I might be able to apply them elsewhere. I started buying multiple variations on the puzzle and soon learned to solve them all. I will list some of these below.
Over the course of the next two and a half years, I reduced my average solve time for a normal cube to just a little over 27 seconds. Then, a tragic thing happened: the tendons in my wrists started to give out. it just started out as a distant tickle in my wrists, but soon, as I continued to ignore it, the pain grew so great that I could barely even use my hands and forearms at all. My condition has improved since then, but well over two years later after quitting my beloved hobby completely, they still bother me on a daily basis.
I'm sure that they will get better sometime, but for now all that I can do is take care of them, do strengthening exercises - and wait. On hindsight, it wasn't necessarily only the puzzles fault. I was doing too many things with my hands each day and, interestingly - according to the doctor - I grew a bit fast. In other words my hands and tendons were expanding quickly enough that they could not build muscle mass at a high enough rate enough to keep up with everything I was doing with them.
Here is my warning to anyone who does Rubik's cubes and anything else that could be strenuous on hands and tendons: DON'T OVERDO IT! Be careful and aware of how your body feels and don't ignore little things - even if they seem trivial. Also, if your are in your early-mid teens as I am, be extra careful, because our quickly stretching muscles and joints are more easily injured. I had to find this out the hard way and regret it often.
A summation of the puzzle hoard I have amassed over the last few years. I have 23 different cubes in all. It has spent most of the last two years in the back of my closet collecting dust. For anyone looking at this page who is clueless or partially educated about this subject, here are a few terms that I and other cubers use that will help you understand my descriptions better: Corner Cutting: This a term used to describe a cube's ability to still turn properly when the sides are somewhat misaligned - thereby "cutting" the corner pieces of the puzzle. This enables quick movement by making lining up the sides perfectly after every turn non-essential. Jamming: The same as locking up. Feeling: Feeling is something a bit hard to describe to a non Rubik's cuber. Basically, this is just the different aspects of the way the cube turns or does certain things and how it feels in the hands while doing so. The only real way to get the feel of a puzzle is to pick it up and use it. Layer: Cube puzzles are usually solved by layers. If you turn one side of the cube, you are turning one layer of the cube. Vertically, there are 3 layers in a 3x3. Popping: This is when the cube locks up and you accidentally keep turning it anyway. As a result, the cubes pieces explode all over the place. This can be EXTREMELY annoying. Locking Up: This is when two parts of the puzzle jam against each other, essentially "locking up" the puzzle's movement ability. Twisty Puzzle: A phrase used to describe the entire family of 3-D puzzles with turning faces or elements. This includes all shapes and sizes.
The 2x2x2 Cube
Also called the pocket cube, the 2x2, as it is called, is the smallest of the Rubik's cube type line of puzzles (they come from many different brands). They normally cost $4.00 to $11.00. My best time is 6.48 seconds.
Although this is not an original Rubik's brand cube (I don't know which type it is) it turns like one, locking up regularly with complete lack of corner cutting.
I bought this puzzle with a speedcube in mind, but sadly, it is barely better than a normal Rubik's. It normally doesn't lock up, but otherwise doesn't turn smoothly and completely lacks any kind of corner cutting ability.
The 3x3x3 Cube
The Rubik's 3x3x3 was the original version of this puzzle - the first of them all. It was originally designed by a Hungarian professor named Ernő Rubik. It is often said that his puzzle, originally called the "Magic Cube," was invented as a teaching tool to help his students better understand 3D objects, but actually, he built it as a self challenge to try and create a mechanism that would allow all of the sides to move independently without the entire creation falling to pieces. It was only after he scrambled his cube for the first time that he realized what a puzzle he had created; little did he know what a legend it was to become. A speedcube usually costs $6.00 to $20.00. My best time is 15.56 seconds with a Dayan Zanchi cube. My average time is 27.32 seconds (out of 100 solves).
The Original Rubik's Cube
This is the original brand of twisty puzzle and the one that made them all famous. They are still some of the most common ones on the market despite their many disadvantages. Namely it's talent for locking up extremely frequently, it's clunky, uncoordinated feeling movements and it's complete corner cutting inability. Fortunately though, it's flaws led to others, who wanted to go faster, doing their best to improve upon the design and soon the speed cube was born.
Dayan Zhanchi Stickerless 3x3
This was my first speedcube. Overall they are very good cubes; I like the stickerless design and it turns very smoothly. I still have two and solved them regularly before my wrists went out.
50mm Dayan ZhanChi 3x3
A very nice, cute little cube that is perfect for one-handed solving. It is small (5cm), but it works well for me, as I have smaller size hands and cannot easily complete a full size cube one handed.
Fangshi Shuang Ren V2 3x3
An amazing speedcube. It has a dry, scratchy feel and amazing corner cutting. I did not have much time to play with it, but I was impressed the times I did solve it.
YJ MoYu Sulong 3x3
Another amazing 3x3 speedcube with which my time was cut short.
ShengShou Aurora V3 3x3
An excellent speedcube with a smooth, clacky feel. It has very good reviews online and deserves every one of them.
Yj MoYu DianMa 3X3
I barely ever even used this one. It is a nice speedcube in my memory, but I can't say much about it with any authority.
The 4x4x4 Cube
Originally known as the Rubik's Revenge, this cube is like a 3x3 except with one more layer. It is much more challenging to solve and the even number of layers adds a surprising number of different challenges. A 4x4x4 cube usually costs $7.00 to $18.00. My best time is 2 minutes, 38.79 seconds. My average is something closer to three minutes.
This cube was my 3rd twisty puzzle - ever. It was a horrible pick for a 4x4 because, despite it being advertised as a speedcube, it is not. When new, it is tight, hard to turn, heavy, scratchy feeling, has no ability to be adjusted and is prone to locking, jamming, popping apart and disintegrating completely. Now that it has been through heavy use, it is looser and easier to turn, but also pops more frequently, resulting in very embarrassing situations when showing off to friends.......sometimes they even help pick up the pieces!
ShengShou V5 4x4
Tired of having repeated disasters with my LanLan I resolved to get a real 4x4 speedcube and bought this. I couldn't have been happier; it is very smooth, fits my hands well, has great reviews and makes up for it's lack of corner cutting by being extremely precise, each side almost clicking into place as it is turned. I got a new 4x4 personal best time within a day of receiving it.
The 5x5x5 Cube
Originally sold as the Professor's Cube, the 5x5 adds another layer of challenge to the puzzle. I always find it surprising just how much harder one layer can make it. A nice 5x5 usually costs $7.00 - $25.00. I did not keep track of a best or average time, although a normal solve was in the 5 - 7 minutes range.
ShengShou VIII 5x5
My only 5x5, I have been extremely happy with this cube since the day I got it. It has all of the features one wants out of a nice speedcube and has a very nice quality structure build and stickers. I have been a ShengShou fan for some time and the brand continues to prove itself an excellent manufacturer to buy cubes from.
The 6x6x6 Cube
Originally designed and sold by V-Cube, the 6x6x6 is the next step up in difficulty from the 5x5x5. Since the original design came out a few other companies have also made their own versions of the 6x6, most notably ShengShou. A 6x6 can be anywhere from $10.00 to $35.00. My average time is around six minutes.
I bought this 6x6 as a starter because it was cheap. In this case I got what I paid for; it is an okay enough cube, but the quality is disappointing. Also, it is still the only 6x6 I own, disproving the concept of a "starter cube." I haven't had it fall apart or pop, but as far as speedcubing goes it isn't very impressive. The inner layer turning is stiffer than the outer layer turning, and although not prone to jamming, it is a bit stiff and has quite limited corner cutting. On top of this the stickers are pretty bad, they don't chip, just peel. More recently, I took the time to take the cube apart, paint it black, resticker it and lubricate it, which helped considerably. Still, if you are on the lookout for your own 6x6 try ShengShou or maybe Moyu.
The 7x7x7 Cube
Another puzzle originally designed and marketed by V-Cube, the 7x7 is the largest puzzle (layer wise), that I own. This puzzle is quite a challenge and I use the ShengShou version of the cube, which is generally considered superior to the V-Cube. I takes me 7 or 8 minutes to solve the cube. A 7x7 usually costs $18.00 to $40.00.
Shengshou Linglong mini 69mm 7x7x7
The largest cube of my collection, this is one of my favorite puzzles. It is a very nice speedcube for it's size and is very smooth and fast straight out of the box. Also, I ordered the mini version, which is 69mm on each side and, despite it's higher cost, was well worth the money. Having a smaller size makes the cube much more solvable for me, it fitting nicely into my hands.
Other Twisty Puzzle Variations
Along with cube shaped puzzles with turning sides, there is a host of other variations that have different shapes, properties and challenges incorporated in their design. They can range anywhere from a few dollars to hundreds, but I have found they are nearly always worth the price, stretching my logic and memory in interesting new ways.
ShengShou Gold Mirror Cube
An interesting variation on the 3x3x3, a mirror cube is in a solved state when it is in a cube shape. Consequently, when scrambled, the form of the puzzle changes into a random jumble of block-like pieces. It solves the same as a normal 3x3, but is quite interesting nonetheless. It is very well made and turns very nicely as is usual with ShengShou products.
YJ Fluctuation Angle Puzzle Cube
Another shape-shifting variant of the 3x3, I find this cube is a lot of fun. It is also doubly useful if you take into consideration that it can be used as a dangerous and deadly weapon when scrambled (due to it's pointy edges). The only downside is that the pointy stickers tend to peel easily. So far though, I have found this fixable with a little heavy duty glue.
LanLan Flower Rex Cube
Often referred to simply as the "Rex Cube," this puzzle is, obviously, a cube, but instead of each face being turnable, each corner can be rotated. It is quite a challenging little puzzle and I never solved it fully before my wrists stopped working.
ShengShou Stickerless Mastermorphix
Although it would at first seem that this pyramid shaped puzzle would be a completely new challenge, it actually works using the same internal mechanism a the 3x3. Nonetheless, figuring it out the first time was still quite tricky as it has a few interesting features such as angled centerpieces with two colors that will often rotate out of position when the rest of the cube is properly solved. Also, interestingly, the same thing can happen with the larger corners; they rotate out of orientation when everything else appears finished.
A fun dodecahedron shaped puzzle, this is one of my personal favorites. The algorithms for the last layer can be particularly challenging to carry out correctly and remember. On hindsight, it might have been better to buy a nice brand like MoYu or ShengShou, but this type has still performed surprisingly nicely, holding it's own with a lack of popping, decant corner cutting and smooth turning.
Meffert's Pyraminx Crystal
Another very challenging dodecahedron-"cube", I only solved my Crystal Pyraminx once before having to put it away. it is fun to solve but it's one major downside is it's tendency towards locking, jamming and, if you're not careful, popping. It is also very heavy and large. However, with some care, it's shortcomings can be overcome and it works fine.
Coeus Dodecahedron Diamond
I got this cube when I ordered a 2x2 speedcube from Amazon. I still don't have a good 2x2, but I decided to keep what I received - especially considering I payed $5.00 for the 2x2 and instead received this, which is worth well over $20.00. It isn't my favorite puzzle in the world; it has no speedcube-type capabilities and can be solved with exactly the same method as a normal 4x4, but the different coloring does make it a bit more interesting. Someday I would like to try solving it in color blocks, the way it is designed, instead of by layers like I've done before.
I'm not quite sure if this really counts, but I consider it part of my collection and will include it here. Even though it isn't even vaguely hard, it's a lot of fun to just twist it around and make different shapes. It is also the only thing in my collection that is not harmful to my wrists.