Thaddeus Conner

On Saturday, October 29, 2022, Elijah Phelps set the official world record for the Square-1 puzzle with a time of 4.33 seconds. Elijah helped co-host the event, Naticube 2022, in Natick, Massachusetts.

Elijah, a 10th grader, started cubing 4 years ago in November 2018. The Square-1 cube that he holds the official world record with is a puzzle that not many people are familiar with. It is similar to a Rubik’s cube when looking at it at first, but once scrambled, it looks a lot different. When scrambled, the Square-1 does not look like a cube anymore. Elijah learned how to solve this puzzle and first solved it in a competition at the Massachusetts Championships of 2019 in late July. He averaged around 44 seconds for those solves and did not make it into the finals. However, he met a friend named Levi who was very good at it and made it into the finals, averaging around 10-11 seconds per solve. 

When asked about this time, Elijah stated, “Over quarantine, I wanted to get faster at Square-1, so I kept practicing and learning and got my time down to a 12 second average.” His hard work paid off as he entered the Empire State Winter competition in January of 2022. Elijah placed 3rd in the Square-1 finals with an average time of 11.09 seconds. Elijah explained the solve as being a lot different than a normal 3×3 Rubik’s cube. A common 3×3 cube method is called CFOP, starting by solving the cross on the bottom, next doing F2L, the first 2 layers, followed by OLL, orientation of the top layer, followed by PLL, permutation of the top layer, which solves it. While solving the 3×3, your hands can move around, shifting the way you hold it. The Square-1 is different, you don’t move it around in your hands. The reason for this is that you can turn the sides 180 degrees, while the layers can be turned 90 degrees. 

Elijah explained his process in tackling the square-1 cube. The first step is solving the puzzle into a square on the top and a square on the bottom. Depending on the middle layer, it could be a cube, but doesn’t have to be. Since the top and bottom can only be 2 colors, the next step will be solving both of those. The final step is called PBL, permuting both layers where 1 or 2 algorithms can be used to solve the cube. However, an annoying situation called parity can get in the way, slowing down the solve. Although Elijah averages around 7-8 seconds per solve, parity can slow that down by an additional 2 seconds. Advanced 3×3 methods consist of around 75 algorithms to memorize, while the method Elijah uses for Square-1 takes a lot more than that. He explained that he currently knows around 300 algorithms, and there are an additional 100 that he has to learn to become more confident and comfortable with his solves. His record time of 4.33 was very good and Elijah compared it to getting a 4.9 second, while his average was 8.3-8.4 seconds, 3×3 solve. He described his feelings about the solve his chances, “Very rare, something I wouldn’t get at home a lot, or often, very crazy.” 

At the competition, Elijah was on his last solve of the first round. He got to the last step of the solve at around 3.1 seconds and realized that it was one of the easiest algorithms. After he solved it, he only saw the 4.3 before jumping up and shouting “World record!” He had to look back, but luckily saw 4.33, a 0.01 second world record. Looking back, Elijah said that he cringes at the video, feeling like he spent way too much time on the last middle piece and could have gotten around a 4.1 second solve instead. However, Elijah Phelps was still happy that he got the world record and not a +2 for having an incomplete, but a close solve. He went on to win that event with an 8.23 average in the first round, and 9.80 average in the final round.