Ghost cubes, dodecahedrons, triangles… there are exciting new versions of the Rubik’s Cube coming out of India.
50-year-old Manish Rathore himself has created 50 variants and 15 of his designs have been included in the Twisty Puzzle Museum, an online repository of unique takes on Rubik’s Cubes by designers from around the world.
Rathore’s entries include a 12-sided or dodecahedron version with 50 movable pieces; An icosahedron with 20 faces; and a curved ghost cube that initially appears to have no movable edges, but is composed of 20 triangles and 80 movable pieces.
“My favorite to solve and design are Ghost Cubes,” says Rathod, who is the vice-president of sales at a TV network in Ahmedabad.
Ghost Cubes are twist puzzles in which the center must be closed to move each level; All pieces are the same color; And the challenge is to somehow turn the scrambled version into the smooth three-dimensional structure that it started with. “The Ghost Cube is a shape-shifter,” he says. “You often can’t figure out which piece belongs to which side.”
Rathore has many ghost cubes in his collection of over 350 twisty puzzles. He has scrambled and solved them all, although he only picked up his first Rubik’s Cube in 2017. That airport bookstore was fun. Over time, he learned that “a cube should be solved layer by layer, not simultaneously,” Rathod says. “Just as we build a building floor by floor, not one side of the wall and then the other.”
He then learned that there are 43 quintillion possible ways to scramble a standard 3x3x3 Rubik’s cube. He studied notations (what each piece in a twisty puzzle is called) and algorithms (the formulas for how the pieces move) and once he glimpsed the engineering behind it all, he was hooked.
Rathod bought all kinds of twisty puzzles he could find in India. Further algorithm studies; Bought puzzles from China. “Every new start was a nightmare,” he says.
By 2018, he was posting tutorial videos on YouTube (@Manqube) and creating unusual twisty puzzles for his viewers. He currently has three channels in English, Hindi and Gujarati. His most popular videos (How to Assemble 4×4 Rubik’s Cube; and 7×7 Last Two Edge, among others) have nearly 30,000 views each.
By 2020, Rathod was unscrambling puzzles designed by others, and was thinking of making some himself. All he needed was computer-aided design, or CAD software used by architects and furniture designers, and a 3D printer. A few instructions from YouTube saw him create his first 3D-printed puzzle. “It was terrible,” he says with a laugh. “The build quality was poor and there were flaws in the design.”
Between the pandemic, he taught himself how to use CAD more effectively, and studied the physics and engineering principles involved in designing twisty puzzles. “I had never used a vernier caliper before. I didn’t know about principles like golden ratio, tolerances, angles,” he says.
Rathore has so far purchased around 100 cube designed 3D printers and 50 3D printers.
He was first included in the Twisty Puzzles Museum in 2022, when his Icosahedron Skewb (a skewb is a combination/mechanical puzzle styled after the Rubik’s Cube) was noticed by content moderator Andreas Nortmann for the online collection. Since then, others have been included, including Rathore’s hexagonal curvy chopper, inverted pyramid and ghost pentagonal bipyramid.
He hopes to eventually start selling his designs. Meanwhile, he is still ordering and paying attention to new puzzles made by others. He recently stumbled upon a 16-axis cube made by Chinese company Dayan. “There is always stress and frustration at the beginning. Then, when I slowly understand the moves, and how one piece affects the other pieces of the cube, I kick out to solve it,” he says.
Rathod’s wife Bhavini Rathod, a homemaker, supports his hobby, “even though I spend all my free time on it”. His daughter Rutvi Rathod, 25, is proud of his passion, though she doesn’t share any of his interests.
He says life lessons should be learned from cubes. They have taught him how to focus and overcome frustration, he says; Be patient and accept that solutions will come in time.
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