How to Solve a Puzzle Cube: The Ultimate Guide
How to Solve a Puzzle Cube: The Ultimate Guide
Puzzle cubes are always rather intimidating at first. Sure, they may look simple at first glance, but when you see that 3x3 grid of colored panels populating six faces of a cube, you start running the numbers.
A 3x3 puzzle cube has up to 43 quintillion different possible panel combinations. That means when randomly shuffling a cube, there is a chance that you are attempting to solve a puzzle cube configuration that has never been attempted before!
While that sounds exciting for some, others may be quite intimidated by this proposal. If that sounds like you, you’re in luck. In this article, we are going to explore the mechanics of puzzle cubes, and the most reliable method used to solve these perplexing polygonal puzzles.
So the next time you get your hands on a puzzle cube, you can impress everyone in the room with your solving skills!
Getting Started: Algorithms, Puzzle Cubes, and You
As we’ve mentioned before, a 3x3 puzzle cube can present up to 43 quintillion different configurations, but there is only one correct solution to the puzzle.
Sure, you could try to use brute force and guess your way through the process, but this method is less of a strategy and more akin to guessing your friend’s 10-digit phone number one permutation at a time.
What you’ll need to become an expert puzzle cube solver is a strategic and systematic procedure for solving these puzzles. This is what we call an algorithm. While the word algorithm might bring back memories of computer science class, that’s not what we’re referring to.
In this scope, an algorithm is simply a process defined by a set of rules. In this case, the process is solving a puzzle cube and each technique has its own set of rules that you need to follow while solving.
The secret behind solving these puzzle cubes is to learn the most effective algorithms. Puzzle cube algorithms leave nothing to chance, as the process is repeatable and works every time when done right.
Now let’s go over the basics of the cube.
Knowing Your Puzzle Cube
First thing’s first, you need to become familiar with your puzzle cube. What are its dimensions? The most common type of puzzle cube is the standard 3x3, meaning that each face has a 3x3 grid of 9 colored panels.
Each face has its own color. Remember the patterning of this color while the cube is solved, as this detail is vital for solving the puzzle. For the purposes of this guide, let’s assume that the cube is comprised of these six colors:
Typically, the colors will be configured in this way on a solved cube:
Now, let’s go over the possible moves you can make. All of these moves are relative to the side of the cube that is currently facing you. For our purposes, let’s assume that the green face of the cube above is facing you.
Remember these moves, as the algorithm we’re covering has six steps, and each step has a sequence of moves to use.
The Fridrich Algorithm
Named after its inventor, Jessica Fridrich, this is one of the earlier solving algorithms. On top of that, it’s one of the most successful and commonly used solving algorithms for puzzle cubes.
Keep in mind that you should avoid rotating the cube too much during the course of solving it. Orientation is a very important factor in solving these puzzles, so make sure you know which face is which.
This method is broken up into 6 distinct steps.
Step 1) Making a White Cross: The first thing you need to do is create a white cross on the forward face. This will set the path for you to solve the rest of the cube. To get this, you need to use the following sequence of steps: R’ U F’ U’
Repeating this sequence enough times should eventually cause this white cross to appear on the front face.
Step 2) Finish the Face: Now it’s time to solve the corners of the face with the white cross to finish the face. The sequence required for this is: F’ R F R’. After enough iterations of this sequence, the face should be entirely white.
Step 3) Sort the Middle Layer: After step 2, it’s time to match all of the corner pieces on the second row, or middle layer of the cube. To achieve this, the sequence is as follows:
After this step is complete, the cube’s center rows should be made up of the same colored panels.
Step 4) Make a Yellow Cross: Now you must make a yellow-colored cross on the top layer of the cube. This is known as the most complicated step, but if you stay calm and adhere to the algorithm, you’ll be just fine. This is a slightly more complicated version of step one.
This is the sequence that will get you a yellow cross on the top face: F U R U’ R’ F’
Step 5) Finish the Yellow Top Face: Next, you will need to make the corners of the top face match the yellow cross in the center. Again, this process is similar to the first step.
This is the sequence used to make the top face corners yellow: R U R’ U R U U R’
Step 6) At this point, you should almost have solved the puzzle cube! But we’re not out of the woods yet. There are still a few more things to do. You may notice that the top corners match on the top face, but not on their respective faces.
Don’t worry, there’s a fix for this. Follow this sequence to orient all of the top corners properly for each face: U R U’ L’ U R’ U’ L
Now take a look at the cube. You should be very close to solving it now, with only a few misplaced panels to deal with. You could, from this point, try to figure the rest out on your own.
But if you want to be extra careful, here is the final sequence you will need to solve your puzzle cube: R’ D’ R D
If you’ve followed the steps to this point, congratulations! You have used an algorithm to solve a puzzle cube!
If you don’t get it on your first attempt, don’t worry. Puzzle cubes are best solved algorithmically, but learning how to use these algorithms is very much a trial and error process.
If you make a mistake and lose your place, don’t give up. You can always reshuffle the cube and start from scratch. One important thing to note about the algorithm above or any algorithm for that matter is repetition.
Due to the astronomically random nature of shuffled puzzle cubes, it cannot be known how many times you need to repeat sequences until you get the desired result of the step at hand.
Patience is key when learning how to solve puzzle cubes, but it certainly pays off. After your first couple of times solving one of these amazing puzzles, you’ll become a pro.
Eventually, you will be able to formulate your own algorithms, and become increasingly quicker at solving puzzle cubes. Before you know it, you may become a speedcuber!
Wired.com: How to Solve a Rubik’s Cube, Step by Step (May 5, 2021)
Interestingengineering.com: How to Solve a Rubik’s Cube by Using Algorithms (May 5, 2021)
Ruwix.com: Different Rubik’s Cube Solving Methods (May 5, 2021)