Episode #189 — Cubing with Lauren and Kit from the World Cube Association

This blog was supposed to be written a lot sooner, but we got distracted watching a comedian get slapped on live television for making a joke with an outdated reference to a 90s movie. Let’s just say things would have gone down differently if Bruce Vilanch were still the head writer of the Academy Awards. Or at least there would have been some hilarious follow-up jokes to shift the mood. You can’t go wrong with Bruce Vilanch! (We know he wouldn’t have that on his own t-shirt, despite his huge collection, so maybe we should print our own.)

With this week’s episode, we cover a lot of ground. The dos and don’ts of selling private islands previously owned by a real-life monster. Check. How clothing can lift one’s spirits. Check. The fact that we have a very special guest star helping us with our interview this week. Most emphatic check. We won’t give it away, but this bonus co-host is eight years old, is extremely knowledgeable on this week’s subject matter (and lots of other things) and is far cooler than we could ever hope to be. We’re talking Ferris-Bueller-level cool.

John Hughes movies aside, there are a lot of other interesting things about the 80s. The eruption of Mount St. Helen’s, Reaganomics, the Madballs direct-to-video cartoons … wait, maybe we should redirect this path. Punky Brewster, Hands Across America, Mandarin Orange Slice … that’s much better. Perhaps one of the biggest cultural phenomena of the 80s was the Rubik’s Cube. You’d be hard-pressed to find a household without one, even if it was just one of the small keychain cubes (it was harder to lose your keys with one of these attached). And if you’re wondering whatever happened to the Rubik’s Cube, and twisty puzzles in general, you’ll want to check out this week’s episode.

We spoke with Lauren and Kit Clement, from the World Cube Association, to learn all about the world of competitive cubing. Yes, there is a cubing community, and after listening to the episode you might be tempted to check it out for yourself! We had a lot of questions, both technical and general, about solving cube puzzles. And by “we,” we mean our guest co-host, who is a cube puzzle whiz and prompted us to ask the right questions.

While we won’t say Lauren and Kit fell in love because of cubing, we will say they are a cubing power couple. They both compete, have great best times, and are extremely supportive of each other — and the rest of the cubing community. They had cubes at their wedding, and we can honestly say that’s a much better option than being forced to do the chicken dance. Lauren and Kit filled us in on how they got into cubing in the first place and how it’s a part of their lives now. (Side note: We learned solving a cube puzzle is an excellent way to pass the time during a boring Zoom work meeting, even if you must be on camera. Fantastic!)

We’ll let Lauren and Kit provide the details, but there are all sort of other cubes out there beyond the Rubik’s cube. And people have different puzzle preferences, depending on tension, whether the tiles are magnetic, how many rows each side has, and more. We also learned about the different algorithms that exist to puzzle-solve, as well as the level of practice involved for people who want to compete with the World Cube Association. Lauren and Kit gave us the scoop on what these competitions entail, along with the age groups involved.

Ultimately, we came away from this interview with a better appreciation for the time and thought involved in cubing, whether in competition or just at home. And while some of us will take this new-found knowledge to try and get a better solve time, others will still peel individual stickers off their Rubik’s Cube tiles from the 80s and solve the puzzle that way. No judgement here, but the judges at World Cube Association competitions might disqualify us. Check out the World Cube Association’s website, or follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to find out what is, and isn’t, allowed.

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