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speedcubing also speed-cubing or speed cubing

noun [uncountable]

the activity of solving the Rubik's cube puzzle as quickly as possible

speedcube or speed-cube or speed cube

verb [intransitive]

speedcuber or speed-cuber or speed cuber

noun [countable]

'Luke will have to break the sub-10 second barrier to win New Zealand's first ever speed cubing champs at Te Papa this weekend.'

3 News, New Zealand 15th July 2009

'… instead of humans attempting to speed cube to a solution in less than 10 seconds, many Rubik's Cube fans today build robots to do it for them.'

Scientific American 17th July 2009

'The world's fastest speedcubers, including Dr. Fridrich, know more than 100 algorithms to whisk the cube to its solution.'

New York Times 15th December 2008

If you've got a long journey ahead of you and a handheld computer game or good old novel doesn't appeal, then why not while away the hours by trying your hand at speedcubing?

Speedcubing, with a related verb, to speedcube, describes the activity of trying to solve the Rubik's cube, that natty little plastic puzzle of coloured squares which has been a classic brain teaser for more than a quarter of a century.

variations on speedcubing include solving the Rubik's cube with a single hand, using your feet, being blindfolded, or doing the puzzle underwater in a single breath

Solving a Rubik's cube involves performing a series of moves so that the cube's jumbled coloured squares (usually in the dimensions 3 x 3 x 3) are transformed into a state where each of the cube's six faces is covered in one single colour. Speedcubing then, is performing the necessary hand movements at top speed so that this solution is reached as quickly as possible.

Achieving records in this skill is a serious business, with ardent speedcubers (sometimes simply referred to as cubers) often lubricating the turning mechanism to achieve moves as quickly as possible and avoid wrist or finger injury. The current world speedcubing record is held by Dutchman Erik Akkersdijk, who in July 2008 solved the puzzle in 7.08 seconds.

Variations on speedcubing include solving the cube with a single hand, using your feet, being blindfolded, or doing the puzzle underwater in a single breath.

There are a number of dedicated websites where speedcubing aficionados can catch up on the latest information about official rankings, unofficial records and speedcubing events.

Background – the Rubik's cube

Though competitive solving of the Rubik's cube goes right back to the early eighties, the expression speedcubing didn't become established until the early noughties, when widespread use of the Internet raised the profile of the activity and inspired a whole new generation of solvers. The practice even has its own sublanguage, featuring expressions such as cubie (one of the little individual coloured cubes which make up the whole), lubed ('lubricated'), and abbreviations like F2L (standing for 'first two layers').

The term speedcubing takes inspiration from a productive pattern of compounds consisting of noun + gerund, where the gerund refers to the activity and the preceding noun says something about the method or style of that activity – compare snowboarding, speed-dating, free running etc. A couple of more recent examples include wild swimming (swimming in rural lakes and rivers) and paddleboarding (a water-based activity in which you stand on a specially adapted board and use a paddle to propel yourself along).

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 19th August 2009.

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