NEW YORK -- Let's see now. If I fold this side this way. Then turn this corner over. Then bring this under ... No, no, no! Think. Think. It has to go this way. If I flip this end under and try to reverse this side ... Impossible!
He's back. Erno Rubik, The Hungarian King of Angst.
The father of Rubik's Cube -- one of the most successful puzzles ever to fascinate and frustrate -- is back with Rubik's Magic, a new puzzle completely unlike the maddening cube that sold an estimated 100 million units after its introduction in 1980.
The latest challenge to puzzle-lovers by the 42-year-old Hungarian professor is an eight-paneled plastic rectangle that resembles a 'high-tech plastic quilt.' On both sides of the puzzle appear three colored rings, each printed across several panels.
The following is prudently attributed to the manufacturer:
'The object of the puzzle couldn't be simpler: link the rings. In order to join the rings, however, the solver must manipulate the eight panels to shift the position of the concentric rings. The catch is that when any one panel is moved, the colored rings move as well.'
Get the idea?
'It seems to defy basic principles,' Rubik said in comparing his new puzzle to the cube. 'The cube was essentially a closed object with the secret on the inside and the effect on the outside. This puzzle is an open one. The mystery is that you can see everything, but you cannot explain it.'
Would everyone who gained comfort from that raise your hand.
For those who are interested, Rubik's Magic is now making its way into retail stores across the country. The puzzle, with a price tag of about $10, is being marketed by Matchbox International, a subsidiary of Universal Matchbox Group Ltd.
In order to meet the anticipated demand for the puzzle, and to lessen the 'serious problem' of knock-offs which hurt Rubik's control of cube sales, two manufacturing centers are busily assembling the panels for worldwide distribution.
More than 2,000 workers are producing the puzzle in the People's Republic of China and another group is making the puzzle at Rubik's own headquarters in Budapest for distribution to the East Bloc countries.
Matchbox is already labeling Rubik's Magic 'a winner' and if the puzzle's immediate reception is any indication their optimism is justified.
More than 30,000 puzzles were sold in the first week following its introduction at the Budapest Fair in mid-September. Rubik was not surprised, however, because in Hungary, a nation of only 10 million people, more than 2 million cubes were sold.
Rubik, who shares his profits with the state-owned import-export firm known as Metriplex, obviously enjoys the popularity of his inventions but appears to have little problem solving the pressures of fame.
'We are all unique,' Rubik said. 'I merely happened to create something that was successful.'
Rubik, a full professor of architecture at the Academy of Design and Crafts in Budapest, is clearly more than a puzzle-master. To Rubik, solving the puzzle, although an accomplishment, is just part of what he wants people to gain from his work.
A Rubik sampler:
'The most important thing in life is to play and especially play with your mind.'
'It is important to solve puzzles because puzzles are all around us.'
'Objects are partners to spend happy hours with.'
'My ultimate goal is to solve something that seems insolvable.'
'Playing with your mind is a way to strengthen your ability to see something new all the time. That's what I want most for everyone: to discover something new.'
By flipping this side over and bringing this panel around ... Please, hold the comments about the 8-year-old who solved the puzzle in minutes.