# How 3-D Puzzles Work

3D Puzzle Tips and Tricks

As any experienced puzzler will tell you, there is no quick and easy way to master 3-D puzzles. Like any worthwhile pursuit, it requires lots and lots of practice and experience with a wide variety of puzzles. Puzzles also require a certain kind of intelligence. It's no coincidence that some of the best puzzlers are engineers or computer programmers -- methodical problem-solvers who can think mathematically and sequentially.

That said, many puzzles hinge on a "secret" that, once revealed, makes the riddle a whole lot easier to solve. In 1981, just a year after the Rubik's craze hit the U.S. and England, a 12-year-old British schoolboy named Patrick Bossert circulated a small leaflet called "You Can Do the Cube" that claimed to reveal the secret moves behind solving the wildly popular puzzle [source: Rubik's]. The mini-book, which quickly sold 1.5 million copies, helped create the lingo that Rubik's fans still use today.

Rubik's now has a website called You Can Do the Cube where beginners and frustrated old-timers can learn Bossert's method. Here are the first Rubik's tips and tricks:

• On a classic 3-by-3 Cube, the six middle pieces don't move. The color of those pieces is therefore the color of that side.
• To learn the secret algorithms to solving the cube, you must first learn the names and symbols representing each side of the cube
• The side facing you (no matter the color) is the front (F); the side away from you is the back (B), the topside is up (U), the bottom is down (D), and the right and left side are (R) and (L).
• A basic turn is a quarter turn of a side in a clockwise direction. So the symbol R means you turn the right side a quarter turn in a clockwise direction. The symbol Ri means right inverse, which is a right side turn in a counterclockwise direction.
• All cubes can be solved in six stages starting with the completion of a cross on one side. Download the step-by-step instructions from the "You Can Do the Cube" website or watch the videos to learn the algorithms -- sequenced moves like "Fi U Li Ui" -- that can work any piece to its desired place on the cube.

The beauty of many 3-D puzzles is that they come with their own instructions. Those intricate Japanese puzzle boxes are meant to be opened, but only by the owner, who can presumably keep the steps a secret. The same goes for many 3-D puzzles that are really more like wooden models of ships, buildings, or animals. Paul Gallant's 3-D jigsaw puzzles -- sold under the names of Wrebbit and Puzz3D -- don't come with step-by-step directions, but do include detailed diagrams of the finished puzzle from several angles and tips for locating corner pieces and "hidden" pieces whose location isn't clear from the pictures.