Sunday 7 November 2021

Interesting Challenge but NOT Fun

Fangshi SuperZ 2x2x2+Skewb
I received a bunch more twisty puzzles a couple of weeks ago - I peruse the HKNowstore site avery week or so to see what is coming out and this year there have been quite a lot of really interesting and tough looking challenges. Some of these challenges (like the Andromeda cube) look much too difficult for me and I actually decide not to buy them - yes, there are a few puzzles that I do not buy! Other puzzles look much too difficult for me but I buy anyway because they look like something that is an essential part of a collection (in this case the Double crazy cube) and I hope that the internet (or Derek) might provide me with a hint on how to get passed a particularly difficult section. 

Most recent purchases
In the most recent batch was a puzzle that particularly intrigued me - anything that involves a combination of two or more different axes of movement is always something that I find challenging and fun. There have been quite a lot of these over the years...most recently there was the Butterflower cube (shallow cut corner and edge turner) and earlier the fabulous Skewby copter plus (deep cut corner and edge turner). The Fangshi SuperZ 2x2x2+Skewb is a hybrid twisty puzzle combining a simple 2x2x2 face turning cube with a deep cut corner turning puzzle (the Skewb). I really couldn't resist it and was delighted to receive it amongst the others. 

A couple of turns only
The SuperZ 2x2x2+Skewb frightened me less than the others and I had an initial play quite quickly to see how it worked and how it looked after a few turns. I was not disappointed in what it would do but got my first inkling that this might not be as much fun as I had hoped. As one would expect with a puzzle like this with quite deep cuts and several axes of rotation, it is quite squishy... just gripping a face to turn it can make it squish together along the skewb axes. Then when you try to turn the faces, things get really catchy. Sometimes it feels like I am about to break something inside when I try to make a move. To be fair, this was just a sensation and at no time did it actually break but the experience was unpleasant.
My usual initial exploration involves making some basic moves - corner and edge piece series but using alternative axes and combinations of them. This will hopefully provide me with some useful algorithms without having to get really fancy. I am terrible at working out my own algorithms and really don't understand how guys like SuperAntonioVivaldi and Pete the Geek do it - I know the process but I struggle to manage it and once I have, usually inadvertently, scrambled the bloody thing then it is too late for me.

I set to looking for basic algorithms and as expected, scrambled the bloody thing by accident:

It took an extra effort to get no colours adjacent for the photo!
So how to go about it? I had no real idea but my first thought was that maybe the inner triangles were like the corners of one of the 4x4x4 crazy cubes. I started solving these possible corners and rapidly realised that was the wrong approach. They are not corners - as I have said before...I am not great at twisty puzzles. After a bit of thinking©, I came to the conclusion that the best approach would be to use skewb moves to reduce the puzzle to a 2x2 cube. How hard can it be?

OMG! This puzzle is a long laborious solve process moving a puzzle that does not want to move in the direction that you want it to. The skewb cuts are quite deep meaning that each turn affects all but 2 of the cubies. Early on it was just a matter of aligning inner and outer triangles on a few and then moving them to safety (on the 2 non-affected cubies) whilst I moved a few more into place. Once a few were in place then it became really clear that very careful planning of positioning of every cubie and every orientation of the cubies needed to be planned in advance. It could have been fun but the squishiness of the puzzle turned it into an ordeal. I don't mind a long laborious solve but the puzzle really needs to do what I want without a fight. This was a struggle - so difficult to turn it properly and so so many cubies to arrange exactly right.

I solved it once at work much to the amazement of colleagues at work and I decided to be foolish enough to scramble it again and see if I could find a better approach (I couldn't) and also because I needed to take my photos. Solving it a second time was still a huge fight but at the end the fight was justified when I found something very unexpected:

A corner parity
Actually, I should have expected it. This sort of parity occurs when a reassembly of a piece has a false equivalent. It did go some way to making the puzzle a worthwhile purchase. I had a vague idea of how to undo this issue and yet again organised all the cubies where I wanted them and made my skewb turn to align the corner and edge triangles. Having done that, I solved again and had the same bloody parity! Except it was rotated the other way! Time to Think© again. I had done something but had obviously done it the wrong way - try again. Finally after 3 days of swearing at both the puzzle and myself, I had solved it - Phew!

Should I try again? I am very hesitant with this and that is not normal for me with a twisty that I have mastered. Usually I would scramble and solve 6 or 8 times to learn the nuances of it but I am not sure that I can face it with this. I will probably head to YouTube to see if there are any tips for making it more usable as well as any better approaches to the solve. I can at least say that I have solved it.

Brass Monkey 5
Another new arrival this week is the 5th in the series of Steve and Ali's Brass Monkey puzzles. This beauty is available now from their website and according to Allard is fabulous. I have not had time to play at all yet but hopefully soon.

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