In 1979, a motion picture was released that aptly captured the feeling of sheer impossibility. The movie was Escape From Alcatraz. Clint Eastwood played Frank Morris, an inmate at San Francisco's famed penitentiary, who scraped, chiseled and sneaked his way through the walls and out to freedom from inside the seemingly inescapable fortress.
Apparently, though, if your name is Frank Morris, virtual impossibility is nothing. Meet Eagle's own Frank Morris, a 24-year-old Borah High graduate and a manager at Boise's Red Lion Inn. He picked up a Rubik's Cube nearly four years ago and saw through the maddening impossibility that has been taunting the world's population since its invention by Hungarian-born Erno Rubik in 1974.
"When I started messing with it, I was like, gosh, I understand why people are so frustrated with this thing. I was intrigued by it, because I wanted to actually get it working, and I couldn't. After a while, it started clicking and I figured out how to do it. Then I started getting faster and faster and learned more things. It was a life-changing experience, I guess you could say, since it's a pretty big part of my life now," Morris said.
Over the last three years, Morris has attended six puzzle competitions and has picked up three world records in the Rubik's Cube, the latest in August on a trip to the Caltech Dallas Summer tournament in Texas. Oh, but he's moved past that little 3x3x3 cube seen in every toy store in America in the 1980s. The records he's held were set with 4x4x4 and 5x5x5 cubes, adding more challenge and more time to the process. If ever the little 3x3 guy looked intimidating, take a look at the 5x5.
Morris' only current-standing record is in the 5x5 single-solve, where competitors are given one crack to make all sides of a wholly disorganized cube transform into the same color just as fast as they cana feat he managed to accomplish in a mere one minute and 51 seconds, shattering the old mark of 2:08. He has, however, also held world-best times in the 5x5 average-solve and the 4x4 single-solve, as well as a handful of other unofficial marks, all cataloged online at www.speedcubing.com.
During the first week of November, Morris traveled to the Rubik's World Championship 2005 in Orlando, where he netted a time fast enough for a new American Record and a crown as world champ. He describes the process he went through in Floridathe first cubing competition ever held outdoorswith a demure smile.
"There are eight people at a time. It's just really hot, and it's humid. So hands are sweaty, necks sunburned ... sitting, waiting for your turn. You go up in groups, and you hand the judges your puzzle. They have it scrambled according to a certain pattern. Then, the judge calls you over, they give you 15 seconds to look at it, and then, you just go from there."
Go, as in "go like hell." Speedcubers, as these competitors are known, work so quickly that, on occasion, their hands appear almost blurry while they are solving. Morris' wife Christy, a fellow cubing enthusiast, summed up the phenomena of watching her husband solve: "You look at the cube and it's all messed up, and you look back, and he's done. And you're like, 'Did I blink? What happened?'"
Witness Morris blaze through a cube and you'll feel that way, too. Even judges can be blown away.
"I was solving [in Dallas]. I thought it was just going to be quick; I didn't think I'd break the record, though. I set it down, and it was like, crazy applause," Morris said. "I [had] a big grin on my face. I turned around and told the main judge for the competition that I'd just broken the world record, and he could hardly believe it, especially by how much."
Finding success so quickly in this recreational activity/sport, Morris is seemingly never satisfied unless he has a new puzzle, a new challenge, in his hands. His latest obsession is blindfolded solving, adding yet another dimension of difficulty. And very soon, he will be beta-testing the world's first 6x6x6 cube, which is still in prototype phase.
In the mean time, Morris, Christy and the four or so other members of the Idaho Speedcubing Club just love to keep practicing and informing others about their favorite pastime.
"If anybody ever wants to know anything about it, we'd like to get them around. We'd like to show everybody what we do," Morris said.
And as for doing the impossible as Frank Morris the escapee did? First, they are not the same person. "We have different middle names," Eagle's Morris stated.
And second, "Anybody can learn," he admitted. "If you try and start out with no puzzling experience, or knowing anybody that does it, or even seeing anybody actually solve it, it's really hard. But if I say, 'Hey, break it down into steps. Try and work on this part, and then work on this part after that.' Then it makes more sense. It's not very difficult to teach somebody. I've taught plenty of people."
If it's lessons or a demonstration or just to find out more information about puzzle-solving, Morris would be more than happy to share his time. His club's Web site can be found at www.isconline.tk, and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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