Solution Time

Until today I had never solved a Rubik’s Cube.

Now I’ve done it twice.

Solving a Rubik’s Cube was something that I never learned how to do. Or, never figured out how to do. I had Rubik’s Cubes, several of them, actually, and I’d twist them and turn them. The best I could do was to solve a single side, and from there I had no idea where to go.

Instead, I became quite skilled at taking a dinner knife, shoving it in a crevice, and prying the cube apart so I could rebuild it in a solved state.

Around Christmas time, my sister asked me if I could solve my niece’s Rubik’s Cube. I hadn’t touched a Rubik’s Cube in years and, while I was able to solve a single side, I still had no idea how to solve it. I found a knife, ready to pull it apart, and I quickly discovered that the mechanism inside a Rubik’s Cube seems to have changed in the last thirty years. I decided it was best not to pry it apart. My niece’s Rubik’s Cube was left unsolved.

Recently, while going through an old box, I found a Rubik’s Magic and a Rubik’s Cube. The Rubik’s Magic, a puzzle of strings and squares where you have to turn into a state where three rings are linked on one side, was quite easy to solve. I think it took me about ten minutes to remember how to solve it, and once I did I was struck by how simple and elegant its solution was. I think I can take it from unsolved to solved state in about fifteen seconds.

The Cube, though!

Well, I scrambled it, and I played around with it, and I still had no idea where to even begin.

I therefore turned to the You Can Do the Rubik’s Cube website and their 6 stage guide to solving a 3×3 cube for school children. First, you solve one face and build the top row. This I could do and had done for over thirty years. Then, you build the middle row. And when you have that, you solve the bottom face. Those last two things, building the middle row and the bottom face? Those were the things that had escaped me.

I seem to dimly remember a classmate in elementary school showing me a book that explained how to solve the Rubik’s Cube where you solved one face, then an adjacent face, and then it all sort of fell together. Obviously, I never learned how to do that, either.

The You Can Do The Rubik’s Cube method took me about fifteen minutes. I solved one face fairly easily, though in a different way than the website said. They wanted to build a “cross” on the face, then solve the corners. I went with what worked and what I knew.

When I started to build the middle row and the middle pieces dropped into place as I solved them, I began to get giddy.

The most time-consuming part, frankly, was solving the bottom. And it was somewhat brute force, repeating sequences over and over until the pieces cycle through into a solved state.

And with that, the Rubik’s Cube was solved!

I scrambled it later and tried it again. I didn’t remember the moves, but the website was there, and if I keep repeating them they could become second nature. Getting the bottom solved was a bit more tedious this time; I made a mistake in one turn and disrupted the middle row, so I had to fix that and then go back to work on the bottom row.

I think I know now why I didn’t figure out how to solve a Rubik’s Cube back then. I didn’t have the patience. Solving a Rubik’s Cube isn’t elegant. It’s a brute force attack, and I’m inclined to elegance.

In any event, now the cube is solved. It’s only taken me thirty-five years to take a Rubik’s Cube from a scrambled mess to a solved state only by turning its faces. No knives were used in the solving of this cube. 🙂

Post header photo, Rubik, by Toni Blay, licensed Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0