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Archive for the ‘Puzzles’ Category

My recent silence is due to two factors: rampant illness and a longish post that I am now working on.

From my post on puzzle solving, I identified my nemesis and mortal enemy as the Rubik’s Cube. I have since been told that it is because I am too stubborn to learn basic strategy. This is no doubt correct, since I refuse to see a game (like chess, for example) as memorizing moves and strategy. Isn’t it more fun to engage in the process of discovery? I mean, what is the point of learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube and then applying those rules rigidly in order to solve the puzzle? Is it even solving it if beforehand you have a method that removes discovery and imagination in the process?

I mean, look at this kid. Is he having fun?

OK, so maybe a little. Punk.

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Think about the features of working on a puzzle for a moment. From the get-go, we assume that a solution to the puzzle is not only possible, but assured. In the case of a jigsaw puzzle, we begin with the picture on the box and our activity is aimed at reordering the pieces to reproduce that image. In the case of a crossword puzzle, we don’t begin with a final image in mind, but the clues provided and, more importantly, the arrangement of numbered boxes, give us faith that there is in fact a solution to the puzzle.

Rubix cube, in the process of being solved

My favorite (by which I mean infuriating) puzzle is the Rubix Cube. I have never solved even the simplest mix-up of squares on the thing. Despite my long-held belief in the solvability of each arrangement, my attempts to solve the puzzle have always resulted in an epic fail. Generally, I break down – or rather, I break it down – tearing it to pieces and reassembling it in the correct arrangement. Actually, my first attempt at this sort of problem solving was to peel the stickers off the faces and then reapply them, but this doesn’t really work. It’s much better to just destroy the cube and then try to reassemble it, all in the name of science.

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