Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rubik's Revenge is Right

As a thank you for helping them out with a small computer problem, my girlfriend's parents insisted on thanking me with a present, despite my protests to the contrary. However, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that they had managed to track down a Rubik's Revenge Cube. I've been looking all over town for one, only to be told that they are sold out.

Okay, time for a little back story...

I've been obsessed with the Rubik's Cube since the summer after 8th grade. For hours and hours I studied a How to Solve the Rubik's Cube paperback, committing to memory the multitude of color combinations, twists, and turns that ultimately make up a very monotonous formula for solving the Cube. Now, more than 20 years later, I can still actually "solve" a scrambled Rubik's Cube in under 3 minutes almost every time.


My daughter got a 2x2x2 Pocket Cube in her stocking from Santa this past Christmas. I don't know what the jolly old elf was thinking, though... He should have put it in mine because I'm the one always playing with it! It didn't take me long to discover that the original formula I had memorized (with a few minor modifications) was all I needed to solve the smaller cousin. Well! That got me thinking... How hard could the 4x4x4 Rubik's Revenge be?

I may never know the answer to that question. Although no less than 18 hours ago I became the proud owner of a Rubik's Revenge Cube, no less than 30 minutes ago said cube became little more than a pile of useless plastic pieces.

Those of you who know me (maybe a little too well) have probably already jumped to the conclusion that I became easily frustrated by this new puzzle and flung it at a wall. A pretty fair guess, considering a similar incident with Rubik's Magic back in the early 90's. But that's another story. No, this one can't be blamed on my immaturity or lack of patience.

It turns out that 24 of the 56 moving pieces on a Rubik's Revenge Cube are only held in place by a piece of plastic about 1mm thick. It also turns out that turning the portions of the cube containing these pieces with any more force than what is absolutely necessary to overcome friction and inertia can cause this incredibly thin piece of brittle plastic to break, resulting in the rapid disintegration from cube to the aforementioned pile of useless plastic pieces.

The first thing I did was swear. The second thing I did was swear again. The third thing I did was to see if I could glue the broken piece and reassemble the puzzle. Yes, it can be glued. No, it can't be put back together the way the original 3x3x3 Rubik's Cube could. So, with gluing not an option, I went to Google.

I'd say it's a bad sign that it took me all of 12 seconds to discover that I'm not the first person to uncover this design flaw.

So, I guess we'll have to see if this puzzle can be returned, which I honestly have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I don't want my girlfriend's parents to be out the money, but I also don't want to be the guy that says, "Hey, thanks for the present. By the way, it's junk."

Maybe, after all those years of mocking Rubik by making his puzzle look like child's play, this is just his way of getting back at me from beyond the grave.


That, or a little phenomenon I like call "Made in China".

'Nuff said.
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