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How to Solve a Rubik's Cube, Step by Step

EARLIER THIS YEAR, while putting together a video about the world’s fastest solvers of the Rubik’s Cube, I decided to devote some time to learning to solve the classic puzzle myself. Tyson Mao, a cofounder of the World Cube Association, came to WIRED’s offices and spent about an hour teaching me his go-to beginner’s method. Afterwards he told me that, with practice, I could probably get my average solve time down to under a minute and a half. 

Before You Begin

Here are some things you should know about the Rubik’s Cube. Some of these points might strike you as trivial at first, but each affords some insight that will become clearer the more time you spend with the cube.

  • The Rubik’s Cube has six faces.
  • Each face is defined by its center. The face with the blue center will ultimately be blue when the cube is solved.
  • Centers don’t move. White is typically opposite of yellow, blue is typically opposite green, and red is typically opposite orange.

Cube Notation

Solving the cube will require you to turn its faces. Each face is represented by a letter. The direction of a given rotation is denoted by the presence or absence of a prime (’) symbol.

Right face: R
Left face: L
Upward-pointing face: U
Downward-pointing face: D
Front face: F
Back face: B

R, L, U, D, F, or B means to turn the corresponding face 90 degrees clockwise

R’, L’, U’, D’, F’, or B’ means to turn the corresponding face 90 degrees counterclockwise.

R2, L2, U2, D2, F2, or B2 means to turn the corresponding face 180 degrees.

Step One: Make the Daisy 

The goal of this step is to place four white edge stickers around the yellow center.

Step Two: Create the White Cross

For each petal on the “daisy,” match the non-white sticker to the center piece of the same color. Once matched, turn the face with the matching center two times. Repeat this process three more times.

Step Three: Solve the First Layer

Time to learn your first algorithms. The following “trigger moves” are the most basic of the bunch:

  • Right Trigger = R U R’
  • Left Trigger = L’ U’ L

Step Four: Solve the Middle Layer

Identify edge pieces on the top layer that do not have yellow stickers. (If it has a yellow sticker, it belongs on the top and not in the middle.) Once you find an edge without a yellow sticker

U + Right Trigger

Doing so will disturb the first layer. Fix the displaced white corner sticker as you did in step three.

U’ + Left Trigger

Doing so will disturb the first layer. Fix the displaced white corner sticker as you did in step three.

Step Five: Create the Yellow Cross

The goal of this step is to create a yellow cross on the upward-pointing face of the cube. This entire step hinges on the following algorithm:

Step Six: Solve the Yellow Face
The goal of this step is to completely solve the top face of your cube. When you’re finished, that face should be entirely yellow. For this step, you will use the following algorithm:

Step Seven: Position the Corners of the Cube

Time for a new algorithm:

 Step Eight: Position Edges
The goal of this step is to cycle the position of the cube’s edge pieces. The following algorithms will cycle the positions of the edge pieces labeled X, Y, and Z in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion, respectively:

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