Sunday, 9 June 2019

An Extension to my Advice for Twisty Puzzlers

The Mo Fang/Qiyi 4 Leaf Clover Plus Cube

4 Leaf Clover Plus
4 Leaf Clover Plus movements
One of my all-time most popular blog posts is one that I am most proud of - it is my advice to twisty puzzle beginners post which I published way back in 2012. It is what I send to puzzlers who have taken time to work out how to solve a basic 3x3 and 4x4 Rubik type cube and want to know what path to take next. It is in no way a didactic set of instructions, I just walk through what many of the options are and discuss why one might want to go that route. I suspect that I should probably redo that post in the light of more recent developments in the Twisty world.

I still stick my initial advice that the first tentative steps beyond basic cubes should probably be the shape modifications to get your head around pieces that "don't look right" and then move on to the other geometries like Megaminx (dodecahedron) and Pyraminx (tetrahedron) but after those, there is a sudden increase in options which can be chosen between...for example the cuboids and those with alternative piece movements like the Dino cube (Shallow cut corner turn), Rex cube (Deep cut corner turn), Skewb (Very deep cut corner turn) and Curvy Copter (Edge turn) - each of these can also be multiple layers too.

Today's puzzle that I am reviewing is definitely not a basic puzzle for a novice but is a really nice example of a recently appeared new group of puzzles on the market. I am not sure what to call this group - maybe it could be called the "Combo puzzles"? These are puzzles which are effectively a combination of 2 different basic puzzles into one with 2 different turning mechanisms combined. I already reviewed one such puzzle, the Grilles II cube which is a combination of a standard 3x3 cube and a shallow cut Master (4x4) Dino cube:

3x3 turns and 2-level deep corner turns
The solving process for this was great fun and my main criticism of this puzzle was that the mechanism was quite unstable and had a tendency to explode into rather a lot of pieces if you were not extremely careful how you rotated it. If you want a copy of this (recommended if you have patience) from PuzzleMaster or HKNowstore.

These combination puzzles really intrigue me - there is a whole lot more scrambling possible with these than the individual base puzzles and then you have the probability that you can get into positions that are completely impossible with each. The approach to solving could be to try something totally unique and find your own commutators to shift pieces around or to try to reduce to one or other of the base puzzles and then solve that. The fun part of this is that there is a distinct possibility that the reduction can introduce parities where a piece has been reformed in an impossible position for the base puzzle - for example in the Grilles II it is possible to be left with a single turned corner which a 3x3 can never achieve. Resolving these parity situations can be one of the most fun parts of these puzzles.

There have not been very many puzzles with combined mechanisms released yet. The 3x3 Curvy Copter by MF8 is one that I have not bought because it was reputed to be so unstable as to be almost unusable

The puzzle I am specifically discussing today is the Mo Fang/Qiyi 4 Leaf Clover Plus cube (available from PuzzleMaster here, HKNowstore here, and UK Puzzlestore here) which is a combination of the wonderful edge turning of a deeper cut Curvy Copter and a 2x2 face turning Rubik cube. I originally got mine from Calvin's HKNowstore and they mistakenly sent me the plain 4 Leaf Clover Cube (no plus) which is just a deeper cut Curvy Copter but no face turns. It was a nice puzzle and fun to play with but not a new challenge. They were very good about sending me out the correct one I ordered with the next order that I placed with them.

I bought the Stickerless version which has the advantage of the Curvy Copter corners to be solved hidden inside the puzzle:

You can see the hidden corners sunk inside - an extra challenge is to solve these too even though they are not externally visible.

The puzzle turns fantastically well and is a joy to scramble. All the usual moves are possible including the jumbling moves that are the fun part of the curvy copter - jumbling to you non-twisty puzzlers or novices is the ability to take a piece out of its' orbit by partially turning an edge and combining it with another edge turn (all edge turners have jumbling as part of their abilities).

Back right is a face turn
Front left is a trio of moves ending a jumbled puzzle. 

After an initial fiddle about I just went for it! I usually spend time working out techniques and maybe a few algorithms but this time I figured I had enough background to these puzzles:

Fully scrambled, it looks quite fearsome!
So how would you approach such a puzzle? For me, the obvious thing to do was to return it to a cube shape and then solve the base 2x2 first which effectively reduces the puzzle to a plain 4 Leaf Clover/Curvy Copter Cube which should be solvable in the standard fashion (unless there were any Parities introduced).

Returning the Curvy Copter to cube shape can be a horrific experience as it gets very blocked but in this particular puzzle the 2x2 moves are unimpeded and using these it is a simple matter to move the edges into the right positions so that the jumbled pieces sticking out can be made flat again. Next step for me was to reduce the multicoloured edges - in the picture above there is a blue/white edge combined with a red/yellow edge at the front. Pairing up the edges is initially pretty easy and done purely with intuition. Having done one face of edges, I moved to the next layer up and this simple too - getting confident now! The next layer up the sides also wasn't too bad with only a little bit of fiddling about. The final face of edges...now that was quite a challenge! The first solve I went through, it just happened to work out that they were all just in place or on opposite faces of where they needed to be and I was lulled into a false sense of security. My second and all subsequent attempts at this puzzle have been a humungous challenge with edges in all sorts of places. It requires all sorts of moving 2x2 cubes about and rotating cubies and edges to finally get them back to either in place or opposite to where they should be. I have done this 7 or 8 times now and I can always do it but it is always a huge challenge which requires quite a bit of planning and moving pieces around.

Who would have thought that the toughest part of this puzzle would have been the 2x2 cube part? It is a brilliant challenge which I have yet to find a definitive sequence for. Maybe a better puzzler than me can manage it more quickly?

Having reduced the puzzle back to cube-shape and then recreated all the edges, the Curvy Copter solve process is exactly the same as normal. You have the choice whether to solve the hidden internal corners last or whether to solve them as you go like the usual CC puzzle - each choice has its own special challenges.

This is an absolutely brilliant puzzle and I can heartily recommend it to all twisty puzzlers who want to go beyond the basic cubes. It should probably be step 4 in your journey - I would recommend learning the basic cubes, then the shape mods and then the alternative turning puzzles before jumping on these. The progression is wonderful.

I think I will need to think about obtaining the Curvy Copter 3x3 to add another combo twisty to my collection.

Coming sometime in the future will be a review of a terribly fearsome puzzle - the Skewby Copter Plus:

Holy shit!
Curvy Copter edge turn AND a Skewb turn 
This beast is a fearsome thing - it is a Curvy Copter PLUS (described in this article) which can swap out the centres and the corners as part of the jumbling process combined with a Skewb (deep cut corner turner). So far I have been too frightened to do any more than turn this thing!

If you are a puzzler who is hesitating over getting into twisty puzzles then don't! Do it! The learning process is quite steep at first but there is plenty of help out there and then once you have developed an arsenal of basic techniques then you are off and running. These puzzles are hugely challenging, have high repeatability and are pretty reasonably priced until you branch out into the hand made mods. Try it, you will probably like it...a LOT!



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