Sunday 3 December 2017

Wheels and Circles are Good...some are even Super

Moyu Fisher Wheel of Time
Moyu Axis Wheel of Time
Original version
After last weeks announcement that I had bought some twisties and that they had come from someone other than my friend Martin's puzzle store (he struggles to get hold of Witeden puzzles, I felt that I had to make amends and buy some new twisties from him to atone for my sin. A few people have been showing of some new designs by the very talented Moyu company and I decided to buy the latest challenges. The Fisher Wheel of Time looks confusing enough but who could possibly resist the Axis Wheel of Time? I couldn't resist either! They arrived yesterday much to the disgust of Mrs S and, to be honest, I very much doubt I will survive this time I am spending at home recovering from my operation....there are so many packages arriving that she has begun to look suspiciously at our postie when he arrives and is definitely muttering murderous intent under her breath every day!

The original Wheel of Time was an interesting puzzle which I bought in 2015 (PuzzleMaster link) and consisted of a simple 3x3 cube with what became known as "baby faces" on the front which were able to turn independently of the rest of the cube. This massively increases the number of pieces that need to be solved and hence makes the puzzle much more interesting BUT as you can see, the pieces on the baby faces are not all unique. There are 4 identical slim wedges and 4 identical curved corners on each baby face and so the puzzle was not as difficult as one might expect. I would call it a very pleasant diversion or just a little extra for a beginner puzzler/cuber.

In my very popular "advice to beginners post" twisty post which still gets a huge number of views, I did extol the virtues of shape modifications of the standard 3x3 to give a nice added challenge and the Fisher cube (PuzzleMaster link) or Axis cube (PuzzleMaster link) are fabulous additional challenges for anyone:

Fisher cube
Axis cube
I found it both incredible and slightly horrifying that Moyu were able to combine these brilliant shapemods with the baby faces but how could anyone resist a shapemod COMBINED with additional baby faces? I do tend to choose the coloured plastic for twisty puzzles where they are available but these puzzles are available in black or white plastic (with stickers) too if that is your preference.

I had a quick look at the turning of these puzzles after they arrived and was very impressed. Starting with the Fisher version which should be less mind boggling:

Faces turned
Centres turned
At this point it becomes clear that there are a whole lot more non-identical pieces in the baby faces so this should be a very nice challenge. OK let's go for it:

It looks a little bit tough
There is nothing terribly new to this puzzle. Can you solve a standard 3x3? Can you understand and cope with the Fisher cube parity? And finally do you know the method to cycle centre pieces around a cube? If you can solve a 5x5 or bigger then you should be able to do this. Well that is ALL you need. I really enjoyed this puzzle - it is a very nice challenge and a little arduous at times but has a few nice Aha! moments. It is very high quality and reasonably priced. Go for it! What about the Axis Wheel of Time?????? Aaaaaargh!!!

It turns in a very similar fashion - faces and centres/baby faces:

One face turned
One baby face turned
Straight away I realised that this was going to be a little more........tough. So I threw caution to the wind and did this:

Dear Lord! What have I done?
There is absolutely nothing new to this puzzle! It should be exactly the same solve as the Fisher version but with the Axis shape there should be no parity to worry about. Oh boy! I was wrong wrong wrong! This puzzle indeed doesn't have anything new and yes, no parity BUT it is a LOT more confusing. First of all the centre pieces are absolutely tiny and this makes matching them up with the edges to start making the top cross (as one does with a Rubik cube) really hard to visualise. I found that I kept making mistakes so I decided to start solving the baby faces first. BIG MISTAKE (have I said before that I am not terribly bright? I made up a few baby faces and then tried to align the edge pieces along side only to realise that I had wasted my time...moving the edges disrupts the baby faces (Doh!). Start again.

I spent a very long time today swearing under my breath as I slowly slowly solved the Axis cube part with a gap between edges and centres for an added challenge. The top face was a particular challenge as I really needed to remember how to solve a supercube (cube with a specific orientation to the centre). My usual cube solution method doesn't allow this and I had to work out again what to do. Lovely extra challenge! I soon had the small matter of the baby faces left:

All 6 are scrambled
This is where I met the only downside of this particular puzzle. The movement of the baby faces within a centre is really fiddly and if it takes a bit to do then it's very important that you don't forget what you were trying to achieve as each piece placement requires 4 baby face turns. At one point I lost track and for a heart stopping moment I thought that I had re-scrambled a significant part of the puzzle all over again. This puzzle may have no new features but it is a HUGE challenge and if you can get over the poor turning of the baby faces then it is a stunning puzzle for the price. I think I will try to solve it again but maybe I will try and catch my breath for a bit!

Super Cuboids (part one)

Witeden super cuboids
Many years ago now I really enjoyed the Crazy 3x3 planet cubes and the 4x4 versions too. Since then I have bought a number of variants many of which have stumped me. Recently Witeden produced 3x3x5 and 3x3x4 cuboids which incorporated circles in their top ± the bottom faces and I bought these from Calvin's HKNowstore. I began exploring these too last week and had a very nice time with the versions with traditional cuboid shape and two circles. I adore the cuboid twisties and described a beautiful classification of them based on solving approach here. The 3x3x5 is of the "Domino" type and is definitely a fun one to solve. The circles definitely add to the puzzling quite considerably. The 2 standard cuboids are of type 00 and 01 which means that one has top and bottom zero faces and the other has a zero and a one face:

Zero face - the inner circle is fixed
One face - the inner circle turns too
I started on the 01 meaning that one face has a fixed inner circle and the other is free to turn (but it doesn't turn independently) - I quickly realised that the zero face is attached to the equatorial layer and if that gets turned the as long a the circle is complete then the zero inner piece will turn inside the outer part - this ruins some of my normal algorithms! It gets more and more interesting! After a few minutes of play I threw caution to the wind and did this:

Hell yessssss!
After working out how to reassemble the circles (cuboid solve), I went on to make sure that the inner and outer parts were matched up - very pleasant task. Then it was time to solve the rest of the cuboid - this is a FANTASTIC and not too difficult challenge.
"I must be becoming a genius", I thought to myself.
I solved the 01 version several times to further convince myself of my genius and then started on the 00 version. First of all I had to tighten a screw inside to make it work properly and after that I had 2 inner circles that were both attached to the equatorial layer. OMG! This really made a huge difference. It means that 2 opposite faces cannot turn at all if the circle is not complete and this totally ruined my cuboid solving technique. I needed to work out my own algorithms to get around the incredible bandaging that was occurring. Progress was made gradually until I finished it......with an awful parity - I could not work out why. I spent hours and hours and hours working on this until I had an epiphany - this is a REALLY difficult twisty puzzle and not for the faint of heart. Mrs S thought at one point that I was going to have a heart attack with all the swearing and groaning that was going on. I have solved it once and will scramble it again tonight to make sure that it was not a fluke. Wish me luck!!!

I definitely think that this series of puzzles is worth purchasing but unlike the 2 Moyu puzzles these are not suitable for beginners. If you are a reasonably accomplished twisty freak then you MUST buy these two (00 here and 01 here) - start with 01 to get warmed up! You will lurve these puzzles and they will cause you pain.....but a good sort of pain!

There are others in the series which I will report on in the future when i have solved them. I have however had a quick look at the offset 3x3x5 super cuboid and it frightens me to death! I made a little video showing what it does to explain to Derek why it is horrific (he seem to agree with me) and I have uploaded it to my YouTube channel. Have a look at the video and let me know your thoughts:

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