Sunday 22 August 2021

Skewb Extras

New Twisties
The middle two look really fearsome but the outer 2 aren't that bad
A very long time ago, probably about 18 months into my puzzling "career", I published one of my most popular posts of all was an article in which I described to people what directions were open to them after they had learned how to solve the basic odd and even order Rubik (face turning) cubes. There are lots of pathways and all are hugely fun because everything you learn on the basic puzzles can be utilised later on different geometries, different rotations or puzzles with "extras". This post was so well received that I had to write a follow up once more varieties had been released. In fact, when I do get asked by beginning puzzlers what they should buy, I always try to entice them into twisty puzzles - they have huge variety, they tend to be less expensive than many other puzzles, they are truly logical and the repeatability is fantastic. Yes, I know that for many other puzzlers the twisties are a group that many of you just cannot get your heads around but I still believe that everyone should try the cubes and a few other variants before making up their minds. The rewards are fabulous. You may need some help early on from fabulous puzzlers on YouTube like SuperAntonioVivaldi or Pete Wyspianski (and many others) who show off the basics with great explanations as well as the solution to incredibly complex puzzles. Once you have got these basics then you just gradually build them up and use what you learn in more and more complex ways. The Twisty Puzzles forum is full of help as well.

I am by no means an expert on these puzzles but somehow I have managed to acquire nearly 200 different twisty puzzles and have solved most of them (sometimes with help). Recently there have been a whole lot of new and ever more complex puzzles manufactured by those clever chaps in China (why in China? It seems that they have easier access to the tools required to manufacture complex plastic puzzles)

Arrived this weekend - Master mixup cubes (type 1, 4 & 6)

One of the routes I advise newbie twisty puzzlers to go down is into cubes that turn through different axes and one of the classic is the Skewb - it's effectively a deep cut corner turning 2x2x2 cube. I found this really quite challenging when I first bought it and it must have taken me a week or so to master. This is not because there are difficult algorithms to learn (you only use the famous up, up, down, down sequence to solve it) - it's because the change in turning orientation really upset my rather feeble bwain! Once understood it is a lovely little design that makes for a fabulous worry bead and also really really upsets non-puzzlers when they see it and try to move it. It does seem rather unnatural.

I was quite excited when my favourite twisty puzzle store (HKNowStore) had a bunch of new Skewbs available - the Meilong Mixup Skewbs come in 3 variants with extra semicircles in the middle of the faces. I have previously extolled the virtues of cubes with circles in them as they effectively provide a second puzzle within the first puzzle and then extra approaches to the solution order. I could see that the version with only whole semi-circles was going to be fairly trivial so I ordered the type 2 and 3:

Meilong Mixup Skewb type 2
Meilong Mixup Skewb type 3
As you can see the deep corner turning cuts are there so it is "just a skewb" but after a partial turn the semicircles become complete and can be turned:

Semicircles aligned and turned
More possibilities for the rotation
Having got these and taken some pics I just threw caution to the wind and scrambled them - I was ever so slightly pleased with myself for my stupidity/courage and I was delighted to have something rather beautiful once scrambled - there was a small chance that it might just end up staying that way. When I showed off the scramble on FB I received encouragement that it really wasn't that tough a puzzle.

Gulp! Gulp!
So how to go about them? I am not going to go into huge detail but I decided to start trying to recreate the semicircles on the 2x2 version which was a fun and logical set of moves which got just a little harder as I got towards the last few and then with the last couple it took a little working out to make sure that the last pieces were oriented right. This, again, doesn't require any special algorithms, it just requires thought©. After that the Skewb solve is just as always - except for the fact that I have not solved one for quite a few years and it took me quite a while to work out how the up, up, down, down worked when used with different puzzle orientations. After an extra hour of swearing at my feeble bwain I had the puzzle reassembled.

The Mixup Skewb version 3 was MUCH tougher for me. I know that others had said that it was easy but I had failed to realise that the reassembly of the final semicircles was going to cause me significant challenge and a lot of swearing. In the end, after at least 5 days of forming one semicircle whilst destroying another I had a wonderful AHA! moment. These pieces could be 3 cycled very like you would 3 cycle the centre pieces in a 4x4 or higher order face turning cube. It is easy to move a piece from the front face to the top (in the equivalent position) and the piece it displaces moves to the front to one side of the starting piece and then that pieces moves across. This exact idea can be performed on the "centres" or circles in the partially turned Skewb. This 3 cycle can get a little confusing because the left, right and centre wedges of the semicircles are not equivalent and it can take a little while to work out exactly which wedges need to move where. With a little trial and error, I got it. 

Here you can see a three-cycle and how the L and R wedges can be out of place
There is a sort of parity where one semicircle is mixed up and won't get fixed simply but this is an error of "false equivocation" - a piece from one semicircle needs to be swapped with one from an equivalent colour. Yes it's such fun!

I have to reiterate that these puzzles are enormous fun and are just part of the natural progression within your Twisty puzzling journey...start with a simple 3x3 cube, learn it (don't bother with speed as that is mostly for teenagers) then go for a 4x4 and understand the differences. Then branch out and try other types of rotation or other geometries and then you are all set for puzzles with "extras".

Go for's fun. The water is all warm in here.

Stay safe guys - the pandemic is still going and still highly transmissible. The unvaccinated are filling hospitals and intensive care units. GO GET A VACCINE!!!!

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