Twist and Shout

… or, sure, but can you name two toys created by Hungarians?

Published November 3, 2023

Eric Keihl is the managing editor for Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. Each week, he will accept a reader challenge to write a entire, quiz-ready trivia round on some tricky or obscure subject. You can challenge Eric here.

This week’s theme is “Rubik’s Cubes,” suggested by Kyle Reece at Ponysaurus in Durham, North Carolina. Thanks, Kyle!

Whaddaya get when you mix the Reagan’s administration’s shameless deregulation of marketing to kids with one of the great modern toy crazes, and sprinkle in a pinch of madness from the dankest corners of a Hollywood writers’ room? Apparently, you get the short-lived 1983 animated series Rubik, the Amazing Cube. Featuring a heroic polyhedron voiced by Ron “Horshack” Palillo of Welcome Back, Kotter fame, this cartoon packed a lot of oddness into its single season of life. 

Dig this premise: A trio of kids find a Rubik’s Cube that tumbles off the back of an evil magician’s stagecoach. Because those things are just so darn fun and so darn available at your local toy store, one of the young’uns solves it and discovers it’s a magical being that can only communicate and cast spells when its colors are aligned. So everything’s fine now, right? Yeah, nope, every episode contrived a way for Rubik to get its squares all jostled and mixed up, forcing the poor kids to solve it while dangling from an eagle’s nest or rushing down a river towards a waterfall. And once they traveled back in time, because of course.

If that sounds like the typical advertainment crap that Gen X’ers practically drowned in, I do have two minor counterpoints for you. One: This bangin’ theme song by a pre-Ricky Martin Menudo. Two: A cartoon with three Hispanic main characters was pretty darn progressive for 1983. Which excuses some of that nonsense, but certainly not all of it. Check out the whole series on YouTube if you dare.

Anyway, the legacy of the Rubik’s Cube is more than just a baffling cartoon. Let’s get solvin’!

1. Arithmetic time! If every face of a standard Rubik’s Cube has the standard nine colored squares, how many of those little squares are on the whole cube? 54

A standard 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube has about 43 quintillion possible combinations. If you want to try imagining that number, first picture a thousand jelly beans, then picture a whole lot more jelly beans. Now you get it!

2. A spork, a hubcap, and a Rubik’s Cube that EVE solved in a heartbeat were all stashed in the trashy treasure trove of what Pixar character? WALL-E

Ack-tually WALL-E’s Cube should be unsolvable, according to Reddit: It’s got five green edge pieces and the white side is opposite yellow. But maybe EVE spent those two seconds frantically swapping all the stickers around.

3. About a second faster than the best 40-yard-dash in NFL history, the quickest recorded Rubik’s cube solve time is just over how many seconds? Three

The record time was turned in this July by elite speedcuber Max Park, a California native with autism whose mom got him into the hobby as a way to help them bond. Check out the Netflix documentary The Speed Cubers to learn more about Max and his fellow quicksolvers.

4. Five very British fairies lure a kid into a giant Rubik’s Cube that… swallows him, I guess? That’s the cute-but-terrifying music video for “Viva Forever,” by what ‘90s pop group? Spice Girls

Here’s the video, if you haven’t seen it. It was directed by accomplished animator Steve Box, who’d go on to win an Oscar for co-directing Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

“Viva Forever” actually came out after Ginger left the group, which is a chef’s-kiss level of irony. 

5. Artist Josh Chalom used 12,000 Cubes to make “The Hand of God,” a replica of the famous Michelangelo fresco where what rib donor finger-taps the Almighty? Adam

It took Michelangelo four years to paint the Sistine Chapel, but Chalom’s team needed just four weeks to assemble his masterpiece. What a Pietà for you, Mr. Renaissance! Also, you’re damn right this weird art form is called “Rubik’s cubism.”

6. Rubik’s wrist, tennis elbow, and good old carpal tunnel syndrome all belong to a class of wearing-down injuries called RSIs. What’s that “R” stand for, for, for? Repetitive

There’s also gamer’s thumb, iPod finger, jumper’s knee, and swimmer’s shoulder. Just because it has a funny name doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you, but certain nameless bastards at Geeks Who Drink will still tell you quiz editor’s eyebrow “isn’t a good reason to miss three months.” Bloodsuckers!

7. When the Rubik’s Cube came to America, they almost renamed it after what Canadian-sounding mythical tangle that Alexander the Great “solved” with his sword? Gordian Knot

I can’t bring up Alexander the Great without mentioning Diogenes the Cynic, a curmudgeonly philosopher who lived in an abandoned wine jug in Corinth. When Alexander stopped by his “house” and asked Diogenes if he wanted anything, the eminent crankypants clapped back “Yes, stand out of my sunlight.” Absolute legend.

8. A cool 3D-style Rubik’s Cube mural, and a glider designed by Ernő Rubik’s dad: They’re both on the eastern side of the Danube, in what European capital formed by merging two four-letter cities? Budapest 

Yep: Budapest used to be the separate cities of Buda (west bank of the Danube) and Pest (east bank.) Buda might have been named for a big brother that Attila the Hun allegedly murdered on a hunting trip and chucked into the Danube. Classic Attila!

Bonus: When the Rubik’s Cube entered the Toy Hall of Fame in 2014, its second-rate classmates were green army men, and what natural phenomena that you can get with a bathtub and some intestinal trouble? Bubbles

Yeah, bubbles. Bubbles are not toys, Strong Museum of Play in Rochester! Nobody ever asked for a bubble for Christmas! You’re making all of us Western New Yorkers look dumb! Don’t make me send Zweigle’s over to rough you up.