New York: There’s an old game in town that is creating a new class of celebrities: “speed cubers” who can solve the Rubik’s Cube puzzle blindfolded, one-handed or even with their feet.
Tyson Mao, perhaps the biggest name in speed cubing, taught actor Will Smith how to solve the brightly colored cube for the film “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Shotaro Makisumi is a math prodigy so dexterous he can juggle seven balls at once. And Leyan Lo, a senior at California Institute of Technology, was featured on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
“Those three guys are among the biggest names in the business,” said Chris Hardwick, 23, who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. He holds the record for speed solving the Rubik’s Revenge Cube and the Professor’s Cube, two advanced models, while blindfolded.
The original Rubik’s Cube -- which won “toy of the year” in Britain in 1980 -- is plastic, with nine colored squares on each face. The object is to move the pieces around until each side of the cube is a solid color.
Mao, Makisumi and Lo insist speed cubing is not as hard as it looks. In fact, they say they are surprised people who admire them so much for something they say simply takes a lot of practice.
Since Rubik’s Cube’s comeback in the late 1990s, people have competed in the United States, Europe and Asia to break records -- or at least beat the 20-second benchmark.
Some cubers lubricate their cubes with silicone spray. Others loosen the screws to make them faster. The first Rubik’s world championship was held in 1982 in Budapest, Hungary, where the winner solved the cube in 22.95 seconds. The current record is 10.36 seconds, and the record for solving the puzzle using only the feet is 51.13 seconds.