In preparation for a Rubik’s Cube contest at an 80s party I went to last week, I picked up the puzzle and have been studying and playing around with it a bit lately.

I happened to be in Hungary in the summer of 1980, shortly after the cube was invented by ErnÃ¶ Rubik, and several months before it became popular in North America. Someone gave me an article in Hungarian about how to solve it. I can’t read Hungarian, but it included a bunch of photos and some “patterns” — that is, series of moves that tweak a small number of “cubies” without disturbing anything else. With these patterns and a little initiative, I taught myself to solve it.

With practice, I could solve it pretty reliable in 90-120 seconds. That’s where I am now. My algorithm is quite simple: first, solve one side. This step does not use any patterns besides one that I devised myself. Each of the following steps does use patterns: place the corners, orient the corners, place the edges, orient the edges.

Three of the four patterns were extracted from that mysterious magazine article, but the forth, which orients the edges, I replaced with a pattern a friend of mine showed me. He called it “Rubik’s maneuver”, so who knows, maybe it was discovered by Rubik himself.

Although 90 seconds is okay, it’s definitely not world class. The real pros can solve it in less than 30 seconds consistently. Maybe less than 20. I’ve look at this site which has a different method of solving the cube that does not do one side first. There are some interesting ideas here I’m going to explore further.

(Oh, by the way, the contest was canceled… they forgot to bring the cubes.)

so, that’s how you did it!