Apr 5, 2018
It turns out I’m a peeler. Don’t know what that is? Neither did I until Eli Fox looked down his nose at me for it.
A peeler is what people like Fox call those of us who have to cheat in order to “solve” a Rubik’s Cube. My favorite technique is popping a “cubie” out with a butter knife, disassembling the entire puzzle and reassembling it in the original order. You see, Fox needs only a matter of seconds and some rather dextrous fingers to solve the Cube.
Fox, a junior at Pembroke Jr./Sr. High School, is part of subculture of Rubik’s Cube aficionados. They’re called cubers, and they travel around the world to compete against each other to see who is the fastest. Fox has competed in tournaments in Massachusetts, Canada and even the World Cube Association’s U.S. Nationals last year in Indiana. Yes, there is a worldwide organization dedicated to the Rubik’s Cube. I didn’t know that either.
Now, Fox is bringing the cubing world to Genesee County. He and his father, Adam Cunningham, have organized a competition to be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Corfu Fire Hall. More than 100 competitors from around the northeast United States and Canada have registered.
“I decided that it would be a good idea to have one here, because other people have done their services to their community by holding competitions, so we decided to have one here,” said Fox, who can solve a scrambled cube in 13 seconds.
On Tuesday, I watched Fox explain his technique to me as he breezed through a 3x3 puzzle in just a few seconds. All the while, he spun out terms like F2L and OLL, as if my spinning brain could comprehend such things.
He also showed off just how much the simple puzzle has evolved since the Cube Mania of the early 1980s. It’s not just the 3x3 multi-colored cube that ErnoÅ Rubik invented in 1974 anymore. No, there are 4x4s, 5x5s and even larger. The biggest Fox had in his backpack was an 11x11 monster. Then there are the different shaped ones. Fox had rectangles, pyramids, one shaped like an X and even a conjoined version of two 3x3 classics.
To take this one step further down the rabbit hole into a world I didn’t know existed, Fox has become so enamored by these puzzles that he has created his own. Yes, he has designed his own puzzles and used his dad’s 3D printer to create them. Suddenly, I felt like everything I had done at 17 was uninspired drivel.
Like any activity, becoming proficient in solving the Rubik’s Cube takes time and practice. But if you think Fox is the sort of teenager to just sit in his room all day, fiddling with his toys, you’re as wrong as putting ranch dressing on chicken wings. Fox is even more involved in school than he is with his hobby. He has played on the varsity tennis team, joined the National Honor Society, qualified for the All-State music competition on bassoon and participated in mock trial, math team, Masterminds, chess club and the school musical. He’s as well-round as that 12-sided puzzle he showed me.
If you go to Saturday’s competition — registration is closed, but the event is open to the public — you won’t find an official Rubik’s Cube anywhere. That’s because the one we had as kids wasn’t build for competition.
“Rubik’s brand doesn’t make very good speed cubes,” Fox explained. There’s a Chinese brand that is much faster. That’s what we use.”
What you will see is a spinning, twisting display of speed and focus. The competitors will challenge for the fastest times in 2x2, 3x3, pyraminx, skewb and square one. Don’t ask me what those last three are; I have no idea.
So why does Fox like this?
“Well, I’m good at it,” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s also satisfying. You can take a puzzle that is completely messed up and looks impossible, but with the right algorithems and time, you can solve it.”
And why do he and his father want to host an event here? Well, Cunningham had the best response.
“Because it would be cool.”
Lifestyles Editor Matt Krueger writes the “Welcome Matt” column that appears each Thursday.