I first heard about the Rubik's Cube in 1980. At the time, it was a little hard to believe that anything could move in three axes like that. Naturally, I had to have one. I bought mine at the first opportunity, but I didn't scramble it up right away. I imagined that when I started getting close to solving it, I would need a way to move just a few pieces at a time without mixing up the part I had already solved. So I began by trying to find a few simple move sequences (which I called dances) that would be useful. I developed the dances and solved the cube in a couple of days without any help (there was no help in those days!). My original dances from 1980 are shown below. Back then I could solve the cube in 2 minutes. Today I'm a lot older and a little slower, but I can still do it in around 3 minutes.
The Moves: The dances are broken down into moves, where each move is one quarter of a full rotation. The diagrams of the moves all show the cube from the top, with the front face at the bottom. Use the white face as the "front" and another color, say blue, for the "top". Then when you are holding the cube with white toward you and blue at the top, the view will match the diagrams. I gave each move a descriptive name: Forward is like moving the right face ahead, Backward means moving the right face back, Left moves the back face to the left, Right moves the back face to the right, In moves the center layer ahead, Out moves the center layer back. Open twists the top like opening a jar, Close is like closing the lid on a jar.
The Dances: Each dance also has a name, loosely related to how it acts or what it does to the pieces. Please note that only the right-hand versions are shown. To work out the left-hand version of a dance, switch Left/Right, Open/Close, and remember that Forward/Back refers to the left face. Now, since all these dances affect mainly the back face, their diagrams show the back face of the cube. This will be the yellow face if you used white for the front face. Also note that the top face of the cube is at the bottom in the diagram, as if you are tipping down the front face to look at the back. Remember that when you are actually going through the dance steps, the top face will be up and the back face will be pointing away from you. The arrows in the diagrams show how the cube pieces shift around. One of the dances (Elevator) has a few additional pieces that also move, but the diagram shows only the important ones for a basic solution (by basic solution I mean solving the cube, but not in the most efficient or fastest way). Fortunately, this dance is used early in the solving process so you don't have to worry about those other moving pieces messing up anything you've already solved.
Elevator is used to re-arrange the positions of the corner pieces on the back face. A rear corner piece is in the right position when 2 of its colors match the closest front corner piece. The two corner pieces shown switch places every time. They also rotate, but that won't matter if you follow the steps in the solution. The upper left corner piece in the diagram rotates each time but does not move, and the lower left corner piece in the diagram does not rotate or move at all. For a basic solution, the right-hand version is all you need.
Gearbox is used to rotate the rear corner pieces without changing their positions. As in the previous dance, the corner piece at the lower left in the diagram does not move or rotate. First make sure all 4 rear corner pieces are in the right position. This will be when 2 colors on each rear corner piece are the same as the colors on the nearest front corner piece. Once the 4 rear corner pieces are correctly positioned, there are 3 possibilities:
Midtown is used to re-arrange the 8 remaining non-corner pieces. This is the only dance you will need to solve the midsection of the cube. Only 3 pieces change position - make sure to note how one piece slides across and the others rotate as they move. You might need to turn the cube so that one of the sides becomes the "back" face in the diagram. Also, because some pieces might be too far away from where they belong, it's often necessary to turn one or more faces to bring those pieces into the right position before doing the dance. Afterward you can turn everything back the way it was. Sounds simple enough, but it's scary to watch this in action because it looks like you are just mixing everything up again. This is the dance you will use the most, so practice it often and allow your muscle memory to guide you. Sometimes I even tap my foot to make sure I don't miss a step! Learn both the left-hand and right-hand versions.
Stir the Pot is used to re-arrange the non-corner pieces of the back face. With the rest of the cube solved and only the back face to work with, Midtown alone will rarely get the job done. If the pieces seem to be out of sync for Midtown, first try to solve as much as you can, then use Stir the Pot. Watch how the 3 pieces move and rotate. A final Midtown or Lazy Susan should finish things off. It's a good idea to learn the left-hand and reverse versions of this dance. In time you will recognize certain patterns on the back face that can be solved quickly by using the proper version. Until then, you can repeat Stir the Pot until you get a pattern you know you can solve with Midtown or Lazy Susan.
Lazy Susan is used only when the entire back face is yellow, and only 3 pieces are out of position. In this dance, the 3 pieces move around without flipping over, so the back face stays solid yellow. Learn both the left-hand and right-hand versions of this dance.
All my dances have the same basic theme - move one piece out of the solved front face, dance it around a little, then put it back. Sometimes I move the piece in and out from the same direction, and sometimes from a different direction. It turns out that the cube can be solved using only four of the dances (Elevator, Gearbox, Midtown and Stir the Pot) but if you want to solve it in less time you will want to learn at least one more (Lazy Susan). In the diagrams above, only the right-hand versions are shown. If you want to master the cube, learn both the left-hand and right-hand versions of all the dances. There are a couple you will want to learn in reverse, too. When learning a dance for the first time, follow the sequence of moves I've written out beside the diagrams, but try not to memorize the words. Instead, commit each dance to muscle memory as soon as possible. Practice the dances until you can do them without looking at the cube or saying the names of the moves.
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