6 Other Puzzles Invented by the Creator of the Rubik's Cube
by James Hunt
Ernő Rubik was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1944. You probably recognize his name, and that's because in 1974 he created the Rubik's Cube, the handheld puzzle that would go on to become a global obsession through the 1980s and beyond. (It's estimated that more than 350 million have been sold, in addition to thousands of variants and alternate versions.)
Though Rubik never managed that level of success again, that didn't stop him from inventing. Here are six more of Rubik's puzzles.
1. RUBIK'S DOMINO
Following the success of his eponymous cube, Rubik invented several more twisting-based mechanical puzzles. The Rubik's Domino looked similar to a cube, but had one layer removed so that it was composed of just 18 smaller cubes rather than 27. The goal was to rearrange the numbers one through nine (presented using domino-style dots) on both sides—black on white and white on black—so that they were in the correct order. Although it had 406,425,600 potential positions, it could be solved in just 19 moves—if you knew how, of course.
2. RUBIK'S CHEESE
Another mechanical puzzle based around twisting, the Rubik's Cheese was invented shortly after the Cube's release, then patented (under the name "Shiftable Element Puzzle") in 1983. To solve the Cheese you had to group two layers of colored pieces together so that all 12 were matched correctly, twisting it in half to move groups of six pieces around at a time.
The Cheese was later replaced by the Rubik's UFO, which worked in a similar way but resembled a flying saucer and had two layers of pieces which could be twisted around the center as well as folded over.
3. RUBIK'S MAGIC
The Rubik's Magic consists of eight tiles which are linked by wires, which allow them to be folded and manipulated into a variety of shapes. Initially depicting three unlinked rings, the goal is to fold the Magic into a heart shape, which shows three linked rings. Although far from simple, it can be solved in less than one second by the fastest experts. In 1987, a Master Edition was released which had 12 tiles and showed five different rings.
4. RUBIK'S SNAKE
Less obviously a puzzle, the Rubik's Snake (also known as the Rubik's Twist) consists of 24 linked triangular prisms which can be twisted and folded but not pulled apart. The intention is for the player to recreate a number of shapes (i.e. animals, or a sphere) by twisting the snake, as well as coming up with his or her own creations.
Mathematician Peter Aylett computed that there were 6,770,518,220,623 distinct and valid ways to fold the snake—although obviously not all of them resemble anything interesting.
5. RUBIK'S TANGLE
In the 1990s, Rubik came up with the Rubik's Tangle—a 25-piece tile puzzle depicting lengths of string in four different colors. Each puzzle piece is identically sized and can be rotated through four different orientations. Two pieces are actually identical, meaning there are two "correct" solutions to the Tangle—a unique feature amongst Rubik's puzzles.
6. RUBIK'S 360
By Oldsoft - Own work, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
After over a decade pursuing other ventures, Rubik returned to the world of mechanical puzzles in 2009 with the Rubik's 360. The puzzle involves manipulating a clear plastic sphere so that the six balls inside it are positioned into the color-coded compartments. Unlike the Rubik's Cube, it appears to be impossible to solve the puzzle using simple algorithms. As a result, the fastest recorded time for solving the Rubik's 360 is 37.02 seconds—far longer than the sub-10 seconds it takes the fastest players to solve a Rubik's Cube.
And while that's it for toys, it's worth pointing out that Rubik also tried his hand at other inventions. Our favorites? The light aircraft frame designed to allow pilots to take off and land on their own feet, and these nifty clamp-style clothespins. We're still waiting for both of these to turn up in stores.