How to solve a Rubik’s Cube

The iconic toy and famously difficult puzzle that inspired a generation

To those familiar with the ingenious design of the Rubik’s cube, it may come as no surprise that this tricky structure was invented by an architect. In 1974, a young Hungarian professor named Erno Rubik invented a model toy that was simultaneously simple and notoriously complex. In fact, it proved so difficult to solve that even its creator couldn’t do it at first!

Consisting of six sides that could be fully rotated, allowing the nine coloured squares on each face to be scrambled into hundreds of combinations, it was so clever it looked like a product of wizardry. With a similar reasoning on his mind, Rubik originally dubbed his creation the ‘Magic Cube’. But when distributed to the mass market some time later it was renamed as the Rubik’s cube, and an icon was born.

The Rubik’s cube’s novelty lies in its three-dimensional rotatability. Players are able rotate any side of any face they choose both clockwise and counter-clockwise, organising the typical 3×3 dimensional cube into any one of its several quintillion possible combinations. The goal – after scrambling – is to restore a single colour onto each face of the cube. Today, the Rubik’s cube has evolved to include 2×2, 4×4 and 5×5 variants and has even spawned a competitive sport in the form of ‘speedcubing’. This puzzle remains one of the most engaging around, and if you want to challenge your logic and patience, there’s no better tool for the test.

A curious cube: How to work out Rubik’s riddle

1. Pick a starting side

Choose a colour (going by the central square) and mark that as the top layer.

2. Make a cross

Find other squares of that colour and align them as the middle squares of the bottom layer, then rotate 180 degrees.

3. Fix the corners

Find squares of your colour that are in the corners and rotate them onto the top layer.

4. Complete middle layer

Flip the completed side so it’s on the bottom then align the middle layer (going by the square located in the centre of the faces).

5. Create the top cross

For the top layer, make an L shape in the top-left corner before aligning the other two middle squares.

6. Fix top corners

Rotate the top layer so it has a corresponding colour in the bottom right corner. Twist the cube’s right side and bottom side until the corners are all aligned. Then twist the top and bottom layers to finish.

This article was originally published in How it Works issue 101, written by James Horton

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