Persistence behind the puzzle

By Justin Katz |

Cubed“Can you solve it?” That was the first thing everyone said to me when they saw me in Bailey Lounge playing with one of my newest twisty puzzles. A lot of people referred to it as a Rubik’s cube, but it was actually a 6x6x6, which means it was significantly larger than a standard Rubik’s cube.

My friends sat next to me making casual conversation and the occasional “Why aren’t you done yet?” It was my first time solving a cube this large and I wasn’t familiar with the solution, but I told my friends with adamant confidence, “I will solve it eventually! Just wait!”

The world record holder for the fastest time to solve a single Rubik’s cube clocked in at 5.55 seconds. I’ve never met him in person, but I’d be willing to bet there were times when he found the puzzle to be just as much an enigma as my friends who watched me struggle with it that day.

Since I first picked up a Rubik’s cube in 7th grade, I’ve spent a lot of time honing my skills. My first solve did not come easily, but I’ve always thought life was like a Rubik’s cube: You’ll never solve a problem unless you put some effort into it.

With my laptop opened to Facebook, I made the occasional status about my progress of this first solve. “1st center, complete! 2nd center complete!” This went on for about an hour until I hit a major roadblock.

Traditionally, solving higher order cubes requires you to always solve the centerpieces first, which is done one color at a time. Since you have to be aware of the progress you’ve already made, the last two centers are always the most difficult.

For a half hour or so, I sat there trying every trick I knew. With every passing attempt, my arsenal of algorithms and confidence was being depleted. After a while I conceded that I wasn’t going to be able to solve this puzzle without assistance.

I found an online video tutorial that looked thorough and after waiting impatiently for some time, I heard the demonstrator say “Down, clockwise, down, counter clockwise, up, clockwise, up, counter clockwise.”

I hastily closed the video thinking I understood what he meant. I repeated that mantra in my head and started turning the cube.

It turned out I had no idea what the video was talking about and was set back to square one after accidentally scrambling the progress I had already made.

After re-solving the first four centers, I watched that video a little more carefully and I managed to solve the last two centers on my 6×6.

That was later followed by a victorious, yet comical Facebook status that read “6x6x6 First Solve: 2 hours!” (The world record time of solving this puzzle is an astounding 1 minute, 40 seconds.)

The more I solve the Rubik’s cube around campus, the more people seem to tell me how impossible the puzzle seems to them. Everyone seems to believe that I’m a genius or that I know a magical secret.

I’ve looked at my GPA and I am certain that I don’t qualify as a genius. But the idea of a secret may be partially true.

When someone asks me that magical question “How do you solve it?” I tell them “One piece at a time.” Some will pick the cube up and try it themselves. Most will put it down within five seconds with the attitude that they couldn’t possibly figure it out.

If you never put the effort into a problem, there’s no reason to expect you’ll reach the solution.

I find this applies to life in general. If you truly want to “solve the puzzle”, you have to put in the time and effort. Stop thinking it’s impossible and start looking for the algorithm you’re missing.

So, if you have a scrambled Rubik’s cube sitting on your desk, or hidden away in a drawer, consider taking it out and giving it another go.

If all else fails try: “Down, clockwise, down, counter clockwise, up, clockwise, up, counter clockwise.”

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