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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Come to the Rubik’s Cube and think outside the box

Published: April 27, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Amanda Clare 09 is bringing puzzles to Brandeis. At her brand-new Enigmatology Club (translation: the study of puzzles), newbies and seasoned puzzlers alike will riddle over everything from Rubiks Cubes to Soduku to Crosswords. The club has yet to meet, but she is bursting with ambitious plans and has already lined up a celebrity guest speaker for next semester Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times. However, the club isnt going to be a lecture it will be very interactive and democratic, explained Clare.

During the clubs first few meetings, students will meet in groups to work on solving the Rubiks Cube. Im not just going to write down algorithms;

Im going to try to have people figure it out on their own, said Clare. Next on the agenda are cubing competitions and creating original puzzles. I dont think the club will get stale, she said. There are thousands of puzzles we can do. But the Rubiks Cube in particular has won her heart. I think the Rubiks Cube is fascinating, explained Clare. I like working with my hands, which is one of the reasons I love it. Ive been reading a book on Rubiks Cubes, and there are really cool tricks and mathematical concepts you can learn.

Clare described her first encounter with the Rubiks Cube with the wistful affection one might hear from a newly betrothed explaining how she met her partner. I was at a Ping Pong tournament with my friend Neal Ludevig [09] before February break and he had a Rubiks Cube, she commented. For the first few days I didnt want to try it because I know that when I try something and I cant get it, I get really upset. Im really obsessive and I knew I would never put it down. But then, Clare continued, this guy from MIT came over, picked the Rubiks cube off the bench and did it in, like, 20 seconds. And that was when I decided I wanted to do it.

Clare rushed to Toys R Us the Friday before break and bought her own Rubiks Cube. I started working on it before I even got back into the car, she recalled. So enamored was Clare that she opted to stay at Brandeis over break to avoid distraction while she worked on solving the Cube. I knew that if I went home Id sit and watch Scrubs all day, she admitted. When Clare returned from the toy store, she pored over the Rubiks Cube for 9 hours straight. I didnt move, I didnt eat, I didnt talk, she remembers. I was completely paralyzed by this thing because I couldnt do it. I woke up the next morning at 7 PM and finished it by 10 PM.

Twenty minutes later, Clare took the Cube apart and did it all over again. Except this time it took six hours, she said. Gradually she reduced her time, and now she can solve the Cube in under a minute. Her record is a not-too-shabby 38 seconds, but she wont be satisfied until she can do it in 30.

I wouldnt place any bets against her the love affair doesnt look like it will be cooling off any time soon. I dont have any less fun doing the Rubiks Cube now than I did in the beginning, exclaimed Clare. When I bring my time down, I feel so accomplished.

The Enigmatology Club has received mixed reactions from Brandeis students. It seems like a lot of people arent interested at first, but when they see me doing the Rubiks Cube they get excited because they think they can do it, too, Clare noted. Some of her peers, however, remain skeptical. When you start a club thats academic, people judge you for it and call you a dork, Clare explained. A lot of people give me weird looks when I tell them about it.

Like a true puzzle master, however, Clare remains unfazed. I enjoy it, she said simply. I dont care what people think.