Tag Archives: puzzles

Rubik’s Cube

6 Jun

Number 30 on my #40Before40 list is to complete a Rubik’s Cube. There were a number of reasons why I decided to do this.

  1. I have never properly attempted it before. As kids, my brother and I used to peel the stickers off the cube and rearrange them which ironically means that there is no way you can solve it.
  2. I do not know anyone personally who has completed it before
  3. It could be an interesting party trick
  4. I saw a TV programme where kids manage to do it in a few minutes –  so hard could it be?

The answer is, of course, very hard. These small kids on the TV made it look deciptively easy: just a few twists and turns and they were done. The reality is that it’s not so straight forward.

I learnt that it took Rubik’s himself more than a month to solve it after he had invented it and that the chances of just playing with the cube and being able to solve it are probably lower than you winning the next Euromillions jackpot. I am now thinking that it would have been better to have chosen something else easier to do. But if it’s on the list I have to do it.

When I started the challenge, I didn’t own a Rubik’s cube. It was when we were in Bolivia and I saw them on a market stall that I decided to take the plunge and buy one.

As evidence, I took a photo after I had bought it to show that it is possible to solve.

Here is the evidence that the cube was mixed up. I did it and then my boyfriend mixed it as well so that there was no way that I could remember how I had mixed it up myself.

What I didn’t realise is that there is a set of specific instructions that you need to do in order to solve the puzzle and the solution of the puzzle is based on algorithms.

The first thing that you need to do is to solve the white cross on the top of the cube. I didn’t realise that the middle square of the cube doesn’t move so if you try to solve the white cross on the side where a green square is in the middle, you will be doomed to fail.

Solving the cross was relatively easy and the thought crossed my mind that I would be finished within ten minutes. I was so wrong.

The next task is to put the white edge pieces in to complete the white face. Again I managed to do this without too much difficulty. This was turning out to be a walk in the park. It was only when I then tried to complete the next stage that I realised that the white corner pieces have to be solved in a particular order. You can’t just put the corners in wherever they will go because the colours on the other two sides have to correspond to the right face of the cube.

I then left this for a few weeks because I was a bit frustrated by the whole thing and it seemed impossible to put the corners in a specific order. I have now finally managed to solve the white cross and put the corners in the correct order.

Then next thing to do is to solve the middle layer. Now I am stuck. It seems that everything that I try to do ends up un-solving the white layer. In this stage you need to use more complex algorithms to solve it. Just twisting and turning won’t help solve anything unless you have the best luck in the world. And if you do have the best luck in the world, why aren’t you in a casino instead of playing with a Rubik’s cube?

So the current status is that the Rubik’s Cube is gathering dust on the coffee table, while I consider my next move, with a Post-It note attached to it saying “If you even thinkabout touching this, I will kill you.” My other half thinks I am joking but I don’t think I have ever been more serious about anything in my life.

The Art of Escapism

4 Jul

In the past week I have attempted no fewer than 3 escape rooms. If you don’t know what an escape room is, then where have you been hiding? An escape room is a live adventure game which involves between 2 and 6 people being “locked” into a room and a series of puzzles need to be solved in order for the group to escape within a 60 minute time limit. I have put locked in quotation marks because there is always a way to get out quickly from the room if there is an emergency of any sort.

I began on Tuesday with a Prison Break escape room. This was a bit risky from the start because I didn’t know the people that I was meeting. I had come across this activity on the internet platform MeetUp. (This is basically a forum, where people can set up groups and activities so that anyone who is interested is free to join). If you know me, you will know that I really don’t have the patience for people making stupid suggestion and there were more than a few. The beauty of these games is that no specialist knowledge required. Everything that you need to escape the room is in the room. You have to solve puzzles and riddles. It reminds me of the Crystal Maze game which was on UK TV in the 1990s, but instead of an individual having to work alone to solve riddles, there is a team working together.

Part of the problem with playing this game was that we were 6 people. I think this is far too many people. It’s a too-many-chiefs-and-not-enough-Indians type of situation. People are looking at riddles that have already been solved and you have the same discussions with different people about the same thing which is time consuming and means that not everyone is up to speed on with the actual progress of the game. I felt like I did contribute the most – I unlocked a safe by using a code in braille within 2 minutes and I am still feeling a little bit smug about it.

The second game I did was with two good friends of mine and the room was called Steps. I am not sure why it was called Steps. The only logical reason I can think of is that you have to logically work through the steps of the puzzle to get the key and get out. But surely isn’t that the aim of all the games. I was a little bit disappointed that there were no references to the hugely popular pop group Steps in the room. Having said that, I am not sure that their influence has yet made it to Switzerland. Probably for the best.

I enjoyed playing this game because, as the game unfolded, it was clear that our individual strengths were all slightly different. By that I mean that what was instantly clear to one person was not to the others so it meant that we were able to make our way quickly through the puzzles without too much of a hold up.

This was the first escape room that I have ever escape without any help at all. Basically, if you get stuck on a certain puzzle, you can call or walkie-talkie a member of staff and ask them for help. As the game last only an hour and you have no idea how many puzzle there are ahead of you, being able to take a clue can be a huge help. This time we didn’t need it! And we escaped in 47 minutes! It wasn’t a record by a long shot. The record for this room was 28 minutes. I have no idea how people manage to do it so quickly because I thought we were fast. However, I think it was the beer that we had before doing the game that gave us some fluid thinking and creativity.

On Sunday I played my last game of 3 for the week. A colleague of mine has a slight Sherlock Holmes obsession (the BBC TV series and not the Arthur Conan Doyle books) and when I mentioned that there was a Sherlock room, her face lit up like it was Christmas. So I agreed to join her and her husband. The premise of the game was that Sherlock had gone missing and John Watson needs you help to find out where he is.

Using the clues in the room you have to book Watson a flight to the right location, date and time so that he can go and help Sherlock. This was the most hi-tech room I have ever played. We had to make QR code (though I am still not 100% sure what they are) and soundwaves to uncover a message. There was even a printer in the room so that we could use an iPad to print off the ticket for Watson.

The problem with this room was that it was hard. I mean hard as in only 10% of groups make it out in under an hour. We were up against it. We did take a few clues and some of the tasks really were difficult but we managed it! I was so happy – what a team! The best part was that we got out of the room and went to the reception. We stood there for a few minutes because the employees were busy with other customers. When one of the customers noticed us stood there, he looked like he had seen a ghost. I guess that he had already judged that we would not be part of the 10% who make it out. I am know considering applying to MI5 but I am not sure successfully escaping a room will be counted as necessary work experience.

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