How To Solve a Rubik’s Cube

by Everett Goen, Staff Writer

43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible permutations. With that many combinations, it must be completely impossible to solve a Rubik’s cube right? Over 43 quintillion different possibilities and people can bring it back to the solved state every time? They must be cheating, right?

Wrong. Solving a Rubik’s cube is actually quite simple, with increasingly complex ways to solve it to become faster. Currently, the world record is held by Yusheng Du with 3.47 seconds. This seems downright impossible, but the reconstructions and proof of the solve make perfect sense. Although this method will not get you a 3 second solve, it will be able to solve any cube in, with practice, under a minute. Anthony Gauthier, Junior at Conant High School, says that he “learned how to solve it in less than a week. And that was with minimal practice.” My personal record is 35 seconds, and I average around 45-50 seconds. Connor Hart, Junior at Conant High School, is my main competitor when it comes to speedsolving. We always go back and forth, one upping each other on our records.

Step 0.5: Learning Notation. This will make learning this method and other methods much easier. Notation is how cube turns are written out. The turns are designated by the faces as shown here:

Notation uses capital letters of the first letter of each face, so R means the right face, F means the front face and so on. If the capital letter is by itself, you turn that face clockwise, as if you were looking at the face directly. If the letter has an apostrophe after it, you turn it counterclockwise. So, R,U,R’,U’ would mean you turn the right face clockwise, the top face clockwise, the right face counterclockwise and the top face counterclockwise. This is actually a very important algorithm, commonly referred to as the “righty alg” and will be used to solve our cube. Gauthier says that “the hardest part for me was memorizing the righty alg”

Step 1: Solving the daisy. The daisy is an intuitive step, meaning there are no algorithms needed. The daisy is solved when the four white edges are surrounding the yellow center, forming what looks like a daisy. Tena Goen, my mother, informed me that this step was quite “cute”.

Then, holding the daisy on the top, rotate the bottom two layers to line up one white edge from our daisy at a time with its corresponding color in the middle row of the cube. After you line up one edge, turn that face twice. You should end up with this on the bottom of your cube.

This is the step that Hunter Devost, Senior at Conant High School, has learned up to. Devost is eager to learn more and says that he “saw all of my friends solving them and really wanted to try. So far it’s pretty fun”.

Step 2: Solving the corners. This step will solve the four corners on the white side of the cube, completing the first layer. We will use the brief algorithm mentioned earlier, R,U,R’,U’ (right side clockwise, top side clockwise, right side counterclockwise, top side counterclockwise). First, spin the cube so that your white cross is facing the bottom. Now, using the top face, find a corner piece that has white on it. Spin the top layer so that this piece is above where it needs to go on the white layer, the one with the cross. The piece should be on the corner in between the two centers of the same colors on the corner.

When the corner is in the correct position, orient the cube so the corner is in the top right, and perform the righty alg. Repeat the righty alg until the corner is in the correct spot. If the corner piece is already in the bottom layer but in the incorrect spot, perform the righty alg once with the piece on the bottom right spot to put it into the top layer.

Step 3: Edge pieces of second layer. Now we will solve the edges of the second layer, leaving us with only one more layer to solve. Once again, we will use the top layer with the cross facing the bottom to orient our edge pieces. We will however need to learn one last algorithm, the “lefty alg”, which goes as follows: L’,U’,L,U. Find a edge piece in the top layer without yellow as one of the colors. Line up the bottom color of the edge with a center on the cube, spinning only the top layer.

Next, look at the color on the top of the edge, and the center colors on either side of the cube. Decide if the edge would have to go left or right depending on the color.

If the edge needs to go left, turn the top layer right, and vise versa. Then, whichever way you turned the top layer, do the opposite algorithm for that direction. For example, if we turn the top layer left, we will perform the righty alg. Then, you should have a white corner piece on the top layer. Orient the cube so the white corner is in one of the front two top corners, with the white side facing outward to the left or right.

With the white corner on either of the top sides, perform the opposite of the first algorithm you performed. This should insert the edge. If an edge is in the middle layer already but not in the correct spot, orient the cube so the incorrect edge is on the right side, and perform a righty alg, then a lefty alg on the face with the white corner. After inserting four edges, you should have the first two layers of your cube solved.

Step 4: Yellow cross. This step is very simple. After completing the edge step and solving the second layer, you can have three outcomes for the top layer.

If you have the dot, turn the front two layers to the right once, and perform a righty alg. Then turn the front layers back up.

If you have the line, do the same thing as the dot, holding the line horizontal to you and turning the front two edges. Perform the righty alg and turn the front faces back up.

If you have the angle, hold it in the bottom right corner and, once again, turn the front two layers to the right, perform a righty alg, and flip them back up. You should now have a yellow cross.

Step 5: Orienting the yellow corners. Now we will switch the last layer yellow corners if necessary. Look at the top corners and find two with the same colors. Spin the top layer so that the two colors are on the face of the same color.

With the corners here, we can look at the second color on the corner, and see if it matches up with the spot the corner is in.

Because this corner is in the wrong spot, we know we have to switch the two blue corners. To do this, hold the corners on the right face, and perform three righty algs. Then turn the entire cube 90 degrees to the left and do three left algs. This will swap these corners. Do this on the other two corners if necessary.

Step 6: Flipping yellow corners. Flipping the corners is a very easy step. First flip the cube so the yellow side if facing down. Hold a corner that needs to be twisted in the bottom right spot and perform righty algs until the yellow face is now facing down. Once it is faced down, spin only the bottom layer to put the next twisted corner in the bottom right spot and continue doing righty algs. Once all of the corners are flipped the rest of the cube will no longer be messed up and the yellow face will be solved.

Step 7: Permute last layer. This is the last step for solving your cube. By now you will either have three edges swapped or all four.

If you have a solved side, face it towards you and if not just pick a side. Face the yellow side up, then perform one righty alg, one lefty alg, five righty algs, and five lefty algs. Repeat this step until you have a solved cube. This step can be a little noisy and can bring up some complications while trying to solve a cube under your desk in class. Liam Smith, Junior at Conant High School, has just recently learned to solve a cube. Smith was ecstatic when he came up to me, showing me his solved cube. “Something about it is just so satisfying”. Gauthier tells that “the best part of solving a cube is seeing the reaction on peoples faces. They are always wowed by it.”

Being able to solve a Rubik’s cube is somewhat of a lost art. The cube was invented by Erno Rubik in 1974 as a means of having a physical object to use for his architectural teachings. The cube became a mystifying puzzle that was very popular during the 80’s. Rubik’s cube competitions began, seeing who can solve the cube the fastest. People kept getting faster and faster, and proving what is possible with this puzzle that was taking the world by storm. Now, there is new technology for cubes to make them as smooth and as fast as possible. These advancements include interchangeable magnets and complex custom spring tensioning systems. New speed cubes can fetch upwards of 60 dollars, but a good budget cube can be found for around ten dollars for someone just starting out. Hopefully this tutorial will help you to be able to finally solve that scrambled Rubik’s cube that’s been sitting on your desk for months.

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