My Third Solution to the Zome Cryptocube Puzzle

The President of the Zometool Corporation, Carlos Neumann, gave me a challenge, not long ago: find a solution to the Zome Cryptocube puzzle which uses only B0s, which I call “tiny blue struts.” For the Cryptocube puzzle, though, these “blue” struts actually appear white. Carlos knows me well, and knows I cannot resist a challenge involving Zome. Here is what I came up with, before the removal of the black cube, which is what the Zome Cryptocube puzzle starts with.

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In a “pure” Crypocube solution, the red Zomeballs would also be white — not just the “blue” struts. However, when Carlos issued this challenge, I was at home, with all the white Zomeballs I own located at the school where I teach — so I used red Zomeballs, instead, since I had them at home, and did not wish to wait.

Here’s what this Cryptocube solution looks like, without the black cube’s black struts. You can still “see” the black cube, though, for the black Zomeballs which are the eight corners of the black cube are still present. As is happens, this particular Cryptocube solution has pyritohedral symmetry — better known as the symmetry of a standard volleyball.

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While the Cryptocube puzzle is not currently available on the Zome website, http://www.zometool.com, it should be there soon — hopefully, in time for this excellent Zome kit to be bought as a Christmas present. Once a child is old enough so that small parts present no choking hazard, that child is old enough to start playing with Zome — and it is my firm belief that such play stimulates the intellectual growth of both children and adults. As far as a maximum age where Zome is an appropriate Christmas gift, the answer to that is simple: there isn’t one.

Also: while I do openly advertise Zome, I do not get paid to do so. I do this unpaid advertising for one reason: I firmly believe that Zome is a fantastic product, especially for those interested in mathematics, or for those who wish to develop an interest in mathematics — especially geometry. Also, Zome is fun!

A Chiral Solution to the Zome Cryptocube Puzzle

This is my second solution to the Zome Cryptocube puzzle. In this puzzle, you start with a black cube, build a white, symmetrical, aethetically-pleasing geometrical structure which incorporates it, and then, finally, remove the cube. In addition, I added a rule of my own, this time around: I wanted a solution which is chiral; that is, it exists in left- and right-handed forms.

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It took a long time, but I finally found such a chiral solution, one with tetrahedral symmetry. Above, it appears with the original black cube; below, you can see what it looks like without the black cube’s edges.

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My First Solution to the Zome Cryptocube Puzzle, with Special Guest Appearances by Jynx the Kitten

Last month, in a special Christmas promotion, the Zometool company (www.zometool.com) briefly sold a new kit (which will return later) — a fascinating game, or puzzle, called the “Cryptocube.” Zome usually comes in a variety of colors, with each color having mathematical significance, but the Cryptocube is produced in black and white, which actually (in my opinion) makes it a better puzzle. Here’s how the Crypocube challenge works:  you use the black parts to make a simple cube, and then use the smaller white parts to invent a structure which incorporates the cube, is symmetrical, is attractive, and can survive having the twelve black cube-edges removed, leaving only the cube’s eight black vertices in place. I had a lot of fun making my first Cryptocube, and photographed it from several angles.

imageIf this was built using standard Zome colors, the round white figure inside the cube, a rhombic triacontahedron, would be red, and the pieces outside the cube, as well as those joining the rhombic triacontahedron to the cube (from inside the cube), would be yellow.

It isn’t only humans who like Zome, by the way. Jynx the Kitten had to get in on this!

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Jynx quickly became distracted from the Cryptocube by another puzzle, though: he wanted to figure out how to pull down the red sheet I had attached to the wall, as a photographic backdrop for the Cryptocube. Jynx takes his feline duties as an agent of entropy quite seriously.

image (2)As usually happens, Jynx won (in his never-ending struggle to interfere with whatever I’m doing, in this case by pulling the sheet down) and it took me quite a while to get the red sheet back up, in order to take kitten-free pictures of my Cryptocube solution, after removal of the black cube’s edges.

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Here’s the view from another angle.

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The Cryptocube will be back, available on the Zometool website, later in 2015. In the meantime, I have advice for anyone not yet familiar with Zome, but who wants to try the Cryptocube when it returns: go ahead and get some Zome now, at the link above, in the standard colors (red, blue, and yellow, plus green in advanced kits), and have fun building things with it over the next few months. The reason to do this, before attempting to solve the Crypocube, is simple: the colors help you learn how the Zome system works, which is important before trying to solve a Zome puzzle without these colors visible. After gaining some familiarity with the differing shapes of the red, blue, yellow, and green pieces, working with them in white becomes much easier.

On a related note, Zome was recommended by Time magazine, using the words “Zometool will make your kids smarter,” as one of the 14 best toys of 2013. I give Zome my own strong, personal recommendation as well, and, as a teacher who uses my own Zome collection in class, for instructional purposes, I can attest that Time‘s 2013 statement about Zome is absolutely correct. Zome is definitely a winner!