The Newest Twist on Twisty Puzzles!

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[Picture courtesy of Rubiks.com.]

Rubik’s Cubes and other twisty puzzles come in all shapes and sizes. With the advent of 3-D printing and innovative home designs that can be shared with a few clicks, the field is constantly evolving. This is a huge plus for puzzle fans.

Naturally, there are puzzle designers who aspire to make the largest twisty puzzle possible. In previous blog posts, we’ve chronicled some of these ambitious endeavors.

One of the first to draw the attention of online solvers was Oskar van Deventer’s 17x17x17 cube known as the “Over the Top” Rubik’s Cube.

Here’s a video of someone solving this diabolical design:

This was later topped by a design by corenpuzzle, who created a 22x22x22 cube. The build was so complex that the cube actually exploded (twice!) during construction.

But it’s not only cube-style twisty puzzles that are drawing the attention of designers. There’s also the minx series of twisty puzzles.

These are dodecahedrons rather than cubes. A dodecahedron is a 12-sided shape formed from pentagons. The smallest of this form is known as a kilominx.

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The megaminx version (pictured above) was the first to attract greater attention in the puzzle world. It had 50 moving parts, as opposed to the 20 movable pieces of a standard Rubik’s Cube. You can find all sorts of solving videos on YouTube featuring megaminx puzzles.

The quest to build the largest minx-style twisty puzzle has taken puzzling to strange new places. Gigaminx, Petaminx, and more followed as the puzzles grew increasingly complex.

For a while, the champion of these puzzles was Matt Bahner, who created the Yottaminx. It’s a basketball-sized twisty puzzle that took four months to build. With 2,943 parts, it’s the twisty equivalent of a 15x15x15 cube.

Here you can see Bahner showing off his creation:

No record stands forever, though, and corenpuzzle recently returned to the top of the leaderboards with Atlasminx, the new record holder.

This 19-layer dodecahedron weighs in at over 17 pounds, and was assembled from 4,863 moving parts.

Skip to 1:53 to see the finished version of the puzzle and see it in action.

You could literally spend a lifestyle twisting and turning that puzzle and never reach the end.

These mindbending designs continue to wow solvers everywhere while pushing the creative envelope in clever new ways, and I’m definitely not alone in saying we cannot wait to see what comes next.


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A Delicious New Twist on Rubik’s Famous Cube?

Rubik’s Cube solving has come a long way since Erno Rubik built his prototype out of wood in 1974.

Top solvers are so fast that they need specially designed cubes that spin fast enough to match their fingers. We’ve seen them solved blindfolded, underwater, while being juggled, and during a skydive.

We’ve chronicled dozens of variations on the classic model, covering everything from larger cubes (4×4, 5×5, even 17×17!) to different shapes like spheres, pyramids, and dodecahedrons.

Heck, with the 3-D printing revolution, people are designing and making their own Rubik’s Cube-style twisty puzzles from the comfort of home!

Still, every once in a while, the thought crosses my mind that I’ve probably seen everything that people can do with Rubik’s Cubes, short of one being solved during a spacewalk or on the moon.

And then someone goes and invents a Rubik’s Cube that looks like Maruchan instant noodles.

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Yes, say hello to the Midori no Tanuki twisty puzzle.

What appears to be a traditional package of Maruchan Midori no Tanuki instant soba noodles is instead one of the fiendish Rubik’s-style puzzles ever devised.

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It works like a standard Rubik’s Cube — a 3×3 twistable cube — but five of the six sides are based on a 3D scan of noodles. Only the top is distinguished by a tempura disk “atop” the noodles.

You would think this would make solving it easier. After all, who cares what the five virtually identical sides look like as long as you can arrange the pieces of the tempura disk on top?

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But apparently, that’s not the case at all. There is only one arrangement of this six-sided cube that allows for the tempura disk to be properly formed. So you don’t have five sides you can disregard. Instead, you’re essentially solving five sides blindfolded while focusing on the top one.

That sounds like a challenge worthy of modern Rubik’s Cube solvers. Hopefully we start seeing reports of folks tackling this daunting brain teaser, and we can begin to get a sense of how long it takes to solve and how difficult the average puzzler would find it.

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All we know for now is that we’re not supposed to pour water on it, no matter how delicious it looks.

What do you think, fellow puzzlers? Would you accept the challenge of the Midori no Tanuki puzzle? Is it really as difficult as reported, or do you think it’s just a lot of hype to sell a puzzle? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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A Puzzly Guinness World Record You Can Help Break!

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[Image courtesy of Amazon.]

How would you like the opportunity to be part of a new Guinness World Record?

Well, this Thursday, you can take part in a world record attempt with the team from Rubik’s, and you don’t even have to leave home to do so!

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[Click here for more details and to sign up for a giveaway!]

Yes, at 3 PM Eastern, 12 Pacific, Rubik’s will host a solving lesson on YouTube and they’re looking to draw the largest audience of Rubik’s Cube fans in history to learn the tricks of the trade and earn a world record along the way.

Of course, there’s probably no other puzzle or puzzly product that has as many Guinness World Records associated with it.

We’ve chronicled many of these in the past, covering everything from fastest solves to strangest solving conditions. We’ve seen various sized Cubes solved in seconds, blindfolded solves, and one-handed solves.

We’ve seem them solved upside-down, while juggling, while on a pogo stick, while underwater, while running a marathon, while on a bike, and even while skydiving.

There are records for the largest number solved while riding a unicycle and for the most people simultaneously solving them (over 3000!), and now, Rubik is inviting fans to participate in another puzzly adventure.

What a cool way to bring people together in a time where social distancing, Coronavirus concerns, social unrest, and more might be making people feel isolated.

And hey, if it succeeds, “Guinness World Record Holder” will look pretty good on your resume!

Will you be participating, fellow puzzlers? Or have you already mastered the Rubik’s Cube? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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Watch Celebrities Tackle an Escape Room for Charity!

I know the last few months have been hard for a lot of people. But it’s also been inspiring to see communities rally and work together, even while social distancing, to take care of each other. And loads of creative folks out there have been raising money for charity in clever and entertaining ways.

In the last few weeks alone, we’ve seen examples like the cast of the TV show Community reuniting on behalf of World Central Kitchen and Frontline Foods, Twitch streamer Rachel Howie supporting St. Jude through gaming, and a puzzle bouquet to support safe maternity care worldwide, masterminded by Andrew Chaikin (with puzzles by Mike Selinker, Kid Beyond, Alison Muratore, and Sandor Weisz) and distributed through Lone Shark Games.

One of the biggest annual fundraisers is Red Nose Day, a yearly international event dedicated to eradicating child poverty. There are often special TV events tied into the Red Nose Day, and this year was no exception.

NBC employed a more puzzly route than most participating networks, as they presented an hour-long show dedicated to a celebrity-filled escape room.

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[Image courtesy of EOnline.]

Musician and actor Jack Black hosted, serving as the exuberant and maniacal gamemaster for the event. Ben Stiller, Adam Scott, Courteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow were the celebrity players, and they had one hour to escape Jack’s series of rooms. For each puzzle they successfully solved, they would earn $15,000 in charitable donations from the event’s sponsor, M&Ms.

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[Image courtesy of NoReruns.net.]

Jack explained the rules, and then informed them that they were allowed three hints to help them solve the puzzles. Each hint was represented by a red clown nose, the official symbol of Red Nose Day.

You can watch the entire special video below, or continue reading for a recap of the show and a breakdown of each puzzle:


RECAP

The celebs were escorted into an elevator and sent on their way. The team immediately started trying to figure out how to escape.

But the elevator wasn’t a puzzle room. Jack was just messing with them, sending the elevator up and down before opening it.

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The group’s first actual challenge was an 80’s themed room, which contained not only numerous references to the decade (posters, movies, decor, etc.), but references to each actor’s career to serve as a distraction. Jack Black informed the audience of two key locations to pay attention to — a photo wall and the table with pizza on it — but didn’t explain the actual puzzles.

Courteney Cox stumbled upon a clue — a recorded message from Jennifer Lopez — that sent the celebs to their yearbooks on one of the shelves. Inside, they each found a different variation of a picture of people sitting on a couch, each one with more people in it.

Ben Stiller not only realized that they needed to be placed somewhere in order, but spotted where to do so.

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The photo wall was a 3×4 grid, with 8 photos already placed and 4 open spaces. My first instinct would have been to place the photos in order of the rows (as if reading the photos in storyboard order from left to right, row to row).

But the photos had to be placed in column order from left to right, ignoring the rows. Courteney figured this out, and a couch folded out from the wall. Having successfully completed a puzzle, $15,000 was added to the team’s charity total.

By all sitting on the couch, they activated the TV, which aired a commercial for Rubik’s Cubes. Ben realized the pizza and tablecloth in the center of the room were covering a giant Rubik’s Cube. (Instead of being rotated and twisted, this one had removable magnetic blocks, which made solving it easier.)

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[Image courtesy of WhatsNew2Day.]

By completing the puzzle (and earning another $15,000), the room’s window opened onto a school hallway set.

Jack directed the audience’s attention toward a clue on the floor, a mascot head in the trophy case, and to the lockers along the corridor.

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[Image courtesy of WhatsNew2Day.]

The celebs immediately started checking the lockers, but they were all locked. While searching for their next puzzle, the celebs misinterpreted a banner that said “Let’s get loud” and started screaming.

It’s silly, but hey, in an escape room, sometimes you’ll try anything.

Ben spotted the clue on the floor, and Courteney realized that some of the floor tiles could be pulled up, revealing a picture puzzle to be assembled. They solved the puzzle — a picture of Jack in a mascot costume — and it opened the trophy case. That made their charity total rise to $45,000.

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When Adam put the mascot head on, the lights dimmed, and he began looking for the next clue. Three of the celebs tried the mascot head on, but they couldn’t find anything. So they used one of their red noses and asked for a hint.

Jack intervened and told them to direct the mascot head’s vision toward the lockers. On certain lockers, the mascot’s head revealed in invisible ink the birthdays of the four players. After some difficulty, Adam realized they should open the lockers in birthday order, which caused all four to open. (Four puzzles completed, $60,000 earned.)

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As the other players removed letterman jackets from the lockers, Courteney stepped into her locker (which was larger inside than the others) and Jack shut it behind her, seemingly locking her in. While trying to figure out how to free Courteney, they all decided to put their jackets on.

Jack directed the audience to pay attention to the janitor’s closet, the trophy case, and the cubby area for the next puzzle.

Courteney discovered her locker secretly led into the locked janitor’s closet. Meanwhile, the other players found prom tickets in their jackets.

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[Image courtesy of TV Insider.]

Unable to free Courteney (the inside door handle came off in her hand), the celebs were flummoxed again, even trying to play rock-paper-scissors to open the door. (Bafflingly, Ben doesn’t know how to play.) They decided to ask for their second Red Nose hint. Jack pointed them toward the janitor’s to-do list, which has four tasks on it, three completed.

The unfinished task referenced the water fountain, and upon investigating it, Adam found the door handle for the janitor’s closet, freeing Courteney (and earning another $15,000).

Doing so activated the TV in the trophy case, and special guest “Principal” Kelly Clarkson provided a year-in-review that recounted the trophy won by each celeb, and suggested they hang up their jackets on the Wall of Fame (the cubby area).

The celebs missed the trophy clue and just hung their jackets up (not realizing that the trophies — first place, second place, third place, and fourth place — indicated the order of the jackets).

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They tried birthday order again, then headed back to the trophy case, realized their mistake, and put the jackets in the correct order, earning another $15,000 for charity.

Part of the locker wall then opened up to reveal a room decorated for prom, complete with balloons and a space for couple/group photos. Jack directed viewers to pay attention to the clock on the wall, the photos of couples on the wall, and the photography setup.

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Relying on the clue “it’s almost time for crown the king and queen,” they puzzled out that there are clocks on all of the photos, but it reads 9 PM for the crowned couple.

Courteney eventually realized there was a stepladder that would allow her to reach the clock, and rotated it until it read 9 PM. (Their charity total was now $105,000!)

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Completing the puzzle activated the lights in the photo area. They posed for their picture, and when they snapped it, the balloon wall burst, revealing a gym decorated for prom. (It also scared the daylights out of them, which made for a great prom photo.)

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Jack then fully explained the next puzzle to the audience, as the celebs had to match the images on their prom tickets to certain champagne bottles (filled with M&Ms) on the refreshments table, which would then point them to particular light-up squares on the electronic dance floor.

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The celebs immediately zeroed in on the symbols on the champagne bottles, but didn’t know what to do with them. Jack taunted them, hoping to goad them into using their third and final hint, until Courteney spotted the matching symbol on her prom ticket.

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Now finally pairing up bottles of M&M champagne, Courteney again figured out that the colors of each pair of bottles should combine to match the color of the podium they’re placed on. It’s a pretty impressive bit of puzzling, I must admit.

Each time they placed a pair of bottles correctly, part of the dance floor lit up.

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Unfortunately, they confused the colors required to make pink with the colors needed to make orange, which slowed them down. Fixing their mistake and completing the puzzle, they ran to the dance floor with another $15,000 for charity.

The dance floor was a 4×4 grid, with each player standing in a different colored square in the bottom row. As the dance floor lit up in a sequential pattern of lights, the team realized they were playing a Simon-style game where they had to step forward in a certain order to match the pattern of colored lights displayed on the floor.

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There were three rounds of the game. The first (and simplest) required a single step each onto the second row. The second required two steps (meaning eight total moves in order), and third required three steps (meaning a more complicated twelve-step order).

Once they sorted out their timing issues in the first round, they flew through the second and third rounds, solving the puzzle and earning another $15,000.

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Jack then instructed the group to go onstage and sing their way out of the room as their final challenge. He noted they only had 9 and a half minutes left to escape.

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A video wall across the room activated, and Adam and Mike, the two remaining Beastie Boys, wished them luck. When Jack started playing guitar over the intercom, Ben recognized the song as “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party),” which they’d have to sing karaoke-style to escape.

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But Lisa didn’t know the song, and she consistently botched the rhythm on each of her turns. Thankfully, that didn’t hinder the group too much, and after being startled one last time (with victory confetti), they escaped the prom with a total $150,000 for charity, and a little over 6 minutes to spare.

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Honestly, as a fan of escape rooms, I really enjoyed this. It’s a great — if highly budgeted — example of this puzzle genre, and a strong introduction for anyone who has never tried them.

The puzzles ranged from simple to moderately hard, but for the most part were fairly intuitive. Also, while it’s embarrassing in the moment to try silly things and draw dumb conclusions while trying to solve puzzles, it’s also very entertaining to watch someone else do the same.

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[Image courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.]

All in all, it was a fun event hosted for a great cause, and the four celebrity players (plus gamemaster Jack) made an engaging cast of characters. The little interviews interspersed throughout also added a lot. (Plus, at the end, we found out Courteney loves escape rooms, which explains her mad puzzle skills.)

If you’d like to contribute to the fine charity work Red Nose Day represents, please click here for more details.


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Puzzly Ideas to Keep You Busy!

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We’re all doing our best to keep ourselves and our loved ones engaged, entertained, and sane during these stressful times.

And after weeks of doing so, it’s possible you’re running out of ideas.

But worry not! Your puzzly pals at PuzzleNation are here with some suggestions.

Please feel free to sample from this list of activities, which is a mix of brain teasers to solve, puzzly projects to embark upon, treasure hunts, unsolved mysteries, ridiculous notions, creative endeavors, and a dash of shameless self-promotion.

Enjoy, won’t you?


Puzzly Ways To Get Through Self-Quarantine

In all seriousness, we hope these ideas help you and yours in some small way to make the time pass in a fun and puzzly fashion. Be well, stay safe, and happy puzzling.


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Puzzly World Records: Redux!

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[Image courtesy of Amazon.]

A few years ago, I wrote a post chronicling some of the puzzly world records I’d found while reading the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. Back then, I was surprised to see a two-page spread dedicated to puzzle-centric records.

As I perused this year’s edition of the iconic record-keeping tome, there was a two-page spread dedicated to Rubik’s Cube world records alone. (There were numerous other puzzly records scattered throughout the book as well.)

So, since 2019 is drawing to a close in the next few weeks, why not dedicate one of the last blog posts of 2019 to the most up-to-date puzzly world records I can track down?

Shall we? Let’s shall.

Let’s start with a few Scrabble records.

On January 21, 2012, Singapore’s Toh Weibin amassed the highest score ever recorded in a Scrabble tournament at the Northern Ireland Scrabble Championship in Belfast, scoring 850 points.

January is apparently a good month for word-tile world records, as on January 5, 2015, Lakshan Wanniarachchi set a record for playing the most opponents in Scrabble simultaneously — 40! — in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He defeated 31 of the 40 players in order to qualify for the record.

(So, yeah, you might have more Words with Friends games going at once than Wanniarachchi did, but did you win that many? Probably not.)

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[Image courtesy of Chess.com.]

Instead of multiple opponents, how about one opponent for 20 hours and 15 minutes?

That’s how long chess masters Ivan Nikolic and Goran Arsovic faced off in Belgrade on February 17, 1989, where they set a world record for the most moves played in a single chess game: 269.

We can stick around Europe for one more puzzly world record, this time in Wageningen, Netherlands, as the Ceres Student Association teamed with Hasbro to create a Monopoly board the size of three-and-a-half tennis courts. Yes, on November 30, 2016, they unveiled a 9,687-square-foot version of the famously frustrating game board.

9,687 square feet? That’s pretty big, I guess. Unless, of course, you’re talking about a world record set in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where everything is ludicrously oversized and lavish.

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[Image courtesy of DMCC.]

On July 7, 2018, the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) unveiled the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, a 65,896-square-foot puzzle that commemorated the late Sheikh Zayed.

And speaking of jigsaw puzzles, students at the University of Economics Ho Chi Mihn City in Vietnam set a record by completing the jigsaw puzzle with the most pieces — 551,232 pieces! — on September 24, 2011, breaking the record previously set in Singapore — 212,323 pieces — which had stood since 2002.

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[Image courtesy of Guinness.]

According to the Guinness article covering the event:

It took the students 17 hours to first break up the 3,132 sections, each containing 176 pieces, into which the jigsaw puzzle had been divided, and then re-assemble them to create the puzzle.

Seventeen hours of puzzling is ambitious, but what about 24 hours of puzzling?

That’s what Richard Bragg, Daniel Egnor, Amanda Harris, and Ana Ulin — aka Bloody Boris’s Burning Bluelight Brigade — tackled when they set the world record for most escape rooms attended in one day. On October 3, 2018, they visited 22 escape rooms in 24 hours in Moscow, Russia. The team’s success rate was just as impressive; the team escaped all but one of the rooms in the allotted time.

Now that’s an escapade.

Of course, we couldn’t have a world records puzzling post without talking about the Rubik’s Cube.

The official fastest time for solving a standard 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube is held by Feliks Zemdegs, who set an average time of 5.8 seconds in the 2017 Malaysian Cube Open. (In competition solving, the average time across three different solves comprises your official time.)

The unofficial record for the fastest 3x3x3 solve — meaning it was outside of tournament conditions — was set in China: 3.47 seconds by Du Yesheng.

But that’s only the official size. What about other Cubes? Let’s look at the fastest solves (that I can verify):

  • 7x7x7: 1 min 47.89 sec by Max Park
  • 6x6x6: 1 min 13.82 sec by Max Park
  • 5x5x5: 37.28 sec by Max Park
  • 4x4x4: 18.42 sec by Max Park (starting to see a pattern here…)
  • 2x2x2 (average solve): 1.51 Lucas Etter
  • 2x2x2 (single solve): .49 sec by Maciej Czapiewski

And, just to show off, Stanley Chapel holds the record for a blindfolded 4x4x4 solve: 1 minute, 29 seconds.

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[A different blindfolded solver. Image courtesy of Le Rubik’s Cube.]

Of course, now that we’ve mentioned one weird way to solve a Cube, let’s explore a few others.

Feliks Zemdegs set another world record by solving a 3x3x3 one-handed in 6.88 seconds. On March 1, 2015, Bhargav Narasimhan solved five Rubik’s Cubes one-handed in a blistering 1 minute, 23.93 seconds.

Daniel Rose-Levine holds the record for solving a 3x3x3 with his feet: 16.96 seconds. Not to be outdone, Que Jianyu unscrambled a trio of Rubik’s Cubes with his hands and feet simultaneously in just 1 minute, 36.38 seconds, in Xiamen, Fujian Province, China. (For the record, he solved one in each hand and one with his feet).

He later hung from a pole to record the fastest time to solve a Rubik’s Cube upside-down: 15.84 seconds. (He also holds the record for solving three Cubes while juggling, doing so in 5 minutes, 2.43 seconds.)

Jack Cai solved one blindfolded in 16.22 seconds. On July 22, 2018, at the Delhi Monsoon Open in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India, Shivam Bansal shattered the field with the most Rubik’s Cubes solved while blindfolded: 48 out of 48 in under 1 hour.

George Turner holds the record for solving on a pogo stick: 24.13 seconds.

Krishnam Raju Gadiraju solved 2 Cubes simultaneously — underwater! — in 53.86 seconds. Kevin Hays achieved a world record for solving eight 3x3x3 Cubes underwater on August 19, 2015. He held his breath for 2 minutes and 4 seconds.

[Here’s a YouTube video of a different, but still impressive, underwater solve.]

Now let’s get truly ridiculous.

Phillip Kwa’han Espinoza holds the world record for most 3x3x3 Cubes solved while running a marathon. On November 14, 2015, he solved 839 Cubes over the course of 4 hours, 56 minutes, and 1 second during the 26.2 mile run in the REVEL Canyon City Marathon in Azusa, California, shattering the previous record of 175 Cubes.

26.2 miles is pretty good. But what about 12,000 feet?

That’s how high up Dan Knights was in June of 2003 when he jumped from a plane and solved a Rubik’s Cube in freefall while skydiving. He solved it in 34 seconds… which is good, because he only had 40 seconds before he’d have to deploy his parachute to safely execute a 12,000-foot fall.

To close things out today, let’s look at some Rubik’s records about quantity.

What about the most cubes solved:

  • one-handed while treading water in one hour? 137 by Shen Weifu
  • on a unicycle? 250 by Caleb McEvoy
  • on a bicycle? 1,010 by P K Arumugam

Finally, in January 27, 2018, the Kaligi Ranganathan Montford Group of Schools set a world record by bringing together the most people simultaneously solving Rubik’s Cubes — 3,997 — at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, India. The average time to solve for the assembled students? A few minutes.

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[Image courtesy of Guinness.]

Imagine the records people will set in the 2020s.


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