# Best Algorithm for solving USACO: Photoshoot - Python

I was trying to solve this problem with Python 3.8. I couldn't find a way other than to brute-force calculate all the possible permutations then check which permutation was valid. The program works fine, but as it's O(n!) time complexity (I think) it takes extraordinarily long when the input has a length of, say, 1000.

My code:

from itertools import permutations as permute

fin = open("photo.in", "r")
fout = open("photo.out", "w+")

nums = [int(i) for i in line.split(" ")]

def main(nums):
foo = [i+1 for i in range(len(nums)+1)]
bar = permute(foo)

for permutation in bar:
boo = False
for i in range(1, len(permutation)):
if permutation[i]+permutation[i-1] != nums[i-1]:
boo = False
break
else:
boo = True

if boo:
return permutation

final = " ".join([str(i) for i in main(nums)])
fout.write(final)

fin.close()
fout.close()


I'm not sure how to optimize this code. Should I create my own permutation generator function and then check along the way instead of getting the whole thing at once? Or is there an algorithm that I'm not seeing?

A short problem description: Given a list N of length n integers, find a permutation of the numbers 1 through n+1 in which every element of the permutation plus the next one is equal to the corresponding number of N.

Edit: The generator approach did not work.

• Or is there an algorithm that I'm not seeing? - Yes there is.
– vnp
Oct 1, 2020 at 0:19
• @vnp Can you give me a hint as to what I'm missing? Oct 1, 2020 at 0:20
• you have $n$ equations and $n$ variables (the last equation being $a_1 + a_2 + \cdots = \dfrac{n (n+1)}{2}$). Oct 1, 2020 at 2:30

## Mathematical approach

Let us assume the following notation:

$$\mathbb{B} = \sum_{i = 1}^{n - 1} b_i = b_1 + b_2 + \cdots + b_{n-1}$$

As mentioned earlier in comments, you have set of interdependent equations as follows:

\begin{align} b_1 &= a_1 + a_2 \\ b_2 &= a_2 + a_3 \\ b_3 &= a_3 + a_4 \\ \vdots \\ b_{n - 1} &= a_{n - 1} + a_n \\ \end{align}

The above is $$\ n - 1 \$$ sets of equations, and the last equation you can derive from those is:

\begin{align} \sum_{i = 1}^{n - 1} b_i &= \sum_{i = 1}^{n} a_i + \sum_{j = 2}^{n - 1} a_j \\ \implies \mathbb{B} + (a_1 + a_n) &= 2 \times \left( \sum_{i = 1}^{n} a_i \right) \\ \implies a_1 + a_n &= 2 \times \left( \dfrac{n (n + 1)}{2} \right) - \mathbb{B} \\ &= \left( n \cdot (n + 1) \right) - \mathbb{B} \tag{1} \end{align}

Now, let's see what happens if we try the summation with a slight variation:

\begin{align} \sum_{i = 1}^{n - 1} \left[ (-1)^{i + 1} \cdot b_i \right] &= b_1 - b_2 + b_3 - \cdots \cdots (-1)^{n - 2} b_{n - 1} \\ &= (a_1 + a_2) - (a_2 + a_3) + (a_3 + a_4) - \cdots \cdots + (-1)^n (a_{n - 1} + a_n) \\ &= a_1 + (-1)^{n} a_n \tag{2} \end{align}

Now, there would be 2 cases; 1 is fairly straight to solve:

### Case 1: $$\ n \$$ is odd

The equation 2 becomes: $$a_1 - a_n = \sum_{i = 1}^{n - 1} \left[ (-1)^{i + 1} \cdot b_i \right]$$

giving you the direct result (adding equation to above):

$$a_1 = \dfrac{1}{2} \left( \sum_{i = 1}^{n - 1} \left[ (-1)^{i + 1} \cdot b_i \right] + n^2 + n - \mathbb{B} \right)$$

### Case 2: $$\ n \$$ is even

This gives you the same result as equation 1, therefore the replacement operation from SylvainD's answer comes into play. I'll leave this for the programming specific solution.

## Program/code review

1. Use the names of variables which are closer to words used in problem statement. This makes it easier to go through code and question at the same time.

2. The photo.in serves no purpose once it has been read, use a contextual open for this:

with open("photo.in", "r") as file_in:

3. Same as above, the photo.out serves no purpose until you want to write:

with open("photo.out", "w+") as file_out:
file_out.write(" ".join(output_string))

• oh man, thanks a ton for the file reading suggestion at the end bro! you rock! Oct 1, 2020 at 16:21

No need to compute permutations

As you are provided all the b1,b2,…,bN−1 values, the problem boils down to finding the first value a1 and everything can be computed from there. In particular, you have only N different values to try. We can try see them like this:

n = 5
b_array = [4, 6, 7, 6]
for a in range(1, n+1):
a_array = [a]
for b in b_array:
a = b - a
a_array.append(a)
print(a_array)


which gives

[1, 3, 3, 4, 2] # Duplicate 3
[2, 2, 4, 3, 3] # Duplicate 2
[3, 1, 5, 2, 4] # Looks good
[4, 0, 6, 1, 5] # 6 is out of range
[5, -1, 7, 0, 6] # -1, 7, 6, 0 are out of range


Because we go with increasing values of a1, the first candidate that does match is the expected solution (the "lexicographically minimum").

Thus, you could just try to get rid of the impossible solution and you'll find the correct one:

def get_solution(n, b_array):
for a in range(1, n+1):
a_array = [a]
for b in b_array:
a = b -a
if 0 < a <= n and a not in a_array: # To be performed with a set for O(1) check
a_array.append(a)
else:
break
else: # No break
return a_array

n = 5
b_array = [4, 6, 7, 6]
print(get_solution(n, b_array))


This solution is O(n*n): n attempts (or maybe n/2 on average) which iterate over n elements (or maybe n/2 on average).

It would be nice to find an O(n) solution (which is the best expectable solution).

Mathematical observations

We have: bi = ai + ai+1 which means ai+1 = bi - ai which is the property we've used previously. From there, we can also compute: ai+2 = bi+1 - ai+1 = bi+1 - bi + ai. It doesn't look very interesting at first but it means that when if you try to increase/decrease ai from a fixed value, the value ai+2 will vary accordingly (and so will the value of ai+4, ai+6, etc).

This can be observed in the options we generated previously:

[1,  3, 3, 4, 2] # Duplicate 3
[2,  2, 4, 3, 3] # Duplicate 2
[3,  1, 5, 2, 4] # Looks good
[4,  0, 6, 1, 5] # 6 is out of range
[5, -1, 7, 0, 6] # -1, 7, 6, 0 are out of range
^______^_________always +2 from column 1 to 3
^____________^___always +1 from column 1 to 5
^_____^______always +1 from column 2 to 4



Note: this property hold when we take every other column but not when we take 2 consecutives values because ai+2 - ai = bi+1 - bi is a fixed value (which is convenient) while ai+1 - a1 = bi - 2*ai depends on the value of ai.

How could this help us ?

Well, in your case, we can see that a3 = a1 + 2 which tells us straightaway that a1 can't be 4 or above. With a bigger list, this would provide us a smaller range to check for a1 (both from the starting limit and the ending limit).

Similarly, we can get stronger constraints on a2.

My final version of the code

In case it can be useful, here is my implementation. It doesn't use all the excellent ideas from hjpotter92's answers:

# https://codereview.stackexchange.com/questions/250061/efficient-permutation-checking-for-usaco-photoshoot-python
# http://www.usaco.org/index.php?page=viewproblem2&cpid=988
import random

def generate_b_array(a_array):
"""Generate 'b' array from the 'a' array."""
return [previous + current for previous, current in zip(a_array, a_array[1:])]

def generate_problem(n):
"""Generate a problem of size n."""
# TODO: It is a bit trickier than this, we may generate solutions which
# are not the lexicographical minimum:
# For instance, both [4, 3, 2, 1] and [3, 4, 1, 2] lead to b being [7, 5, 3]
# But only the second one is an acceptable solution
# This issue gets less and less common as n increases.
a = list(range(1, n+1))
random.shuffle(a)
return a, generate_b_array(a)

def get_solution_naive(b_array):
"""This is the most straight-forward solution: generate and check."""
n = len(b_array) + 1
expected_set = set(range(1, n+1))
for a in range(1, n+1):
a_array = [a]
for b in b_array:
a = b -a
a_array.append(a)
if set(a_array) == expected_set:
return a_array

def get_solution_naive_early_stop(b_array):
"""Smarter (?) solution: trying to stop when generated data is not valid."""
n = len(b_array) + 1
for a in range(1, n+1):
a_array = [a]
for b in b_array:
a = b -a
if 0 < a <= n and a not in a_array:
a_array.append(a)
else:
break
else: # No break
return a_array

def get_solution_naive_early_stop_set(b_array):
"""Smarter (?) solution: trying to stop when generated data is not valid, using the most appropriate data structure."""
n = len(b_array) + 1
for a in range(1, n+1):
a_array = [a]
a_set = set(a_array)
for b in b_array:
a = b -a
if 0 < a <= n and a not in a_set:
a_array.append(a)
else:
break
else: # No break
return a_array

def get_solution(b_array):
"""Optimised solution: rely on mathematical observation to limit the number of values checked."""
n = len(b_array) + 1

# Use properties on alternate indices to restrict values to look for for a1
b_diff = [current - previous for previous, current in zip(b_array, b_array[1:])]

delta_from_a1 = [0]
for delta in b_diff[::2]:
delta_from_a1.append(delta + delta_from_a1[-1])
min_delta_a1, max_delta_a1 = min(delta_from_a1), max(delta_from_a1)
delta_from_a2 = [0]
for delta in b_diff[1::2]:
delta_from_a2.append(delta + delta_from_a2[-1])
min_delta_a2, max_delta_a2 = min(delta_from_a2), max(delta_from_a2)

# We want: 0 < a_n <= N for all n
# With a_n = a_1 + delta_n, we want: -delta_n < a_1 <= N - delta_n for all n
# In particular:
#  -min(delta) < a_1 <= N - max(delta)
a1_min1 = 1 - min_delta_a1
a1_max1 = n - max_delta_a1

# We want: 0 < a_n <= N for all n
# With a_n = a_2 + delta_n and a2 = b1 - a1, we want:
#  0 < b_1 - a_1 + delta_n <= N for all n
#  - delta_n - b_1 < - a_1 <= N - delta_n - b_1
#  delta_n + b_1 > a_1 >= delta_n + b_1 - N
# In particular :
#  max(delta) + b-1 - N <= a_1 < min(delta) + b_1
a1_min2 = max_delta_a2 + b_array[0] - n
a1_max2 = min_delta_a2 + b_array[0] - 1

a1_min = max(1, a1_min1, a1_min2)
a1_max = min(n, a1_max1, a1_max2)
# print("min", a1_min, 1, a1_min1, a1_min2)
# print("max", a1_max, n, a1_max1, a1_max2)

expected_set = set(range(1, n+1))
for a in range(a1_min, a1_max+1):
a_array = [a]
for b in b_array:
a = b -a
a_array.append(a)
if set(a_array) == expected_set:
return a_array

def check_solution(a, b):
"""Test all implementations on a given problem."""
# TODO: Some performance benchmarking could be added here.
a1 = get_solution_naive(b)
a2 = get_solution_naive_early_stop(b)
a3 = get_solution_naive_early_stop_set(b)
a4 = get_solution(b)
if a1 != a:
print("a1", a, a1, b)
if a2 != a:
print("a2", a, a2, b)
if a3 != a:
print("a3", a, a3, b)
if a4 != a:
print("a4", a, a3, b)

def perform_tests():
"""Perform tests (hardcoded & randomly generated)."""
a, b = [3, 1, 5, 2, 4], [4, 6, 7, 6]
check_solution(a, b)

a, b = [6, 3, 10, 4, 2, 1, 8, 7, 5, 9], [9, 13, 14, 6, 3, 9, 15, 12, 14]
check_solution(a, b)

a, b = [12, 5, 9, 6, 14, 10, 15, 13, 2, 7, 1, 8, 19, 11, 16, 20, 4, 18, 17, 3], [17, 14, 15, 20, 24, 25, 28, 15, 9, 8, 9, 27, 30, 27, 36, 24, 22, 35, 20]
check_solution(a, b)

# This case leads to more iterations than most other cases
a = [137, 187, 70, 179, 198, 106, 156, 10, 144, 105, 196, 171, 89, 164, 186, 41, 165, 55, 114, 138, 101, 8, 75, 185, 174, 81, 158, 126, 181, 30, 178, 85, 180, 76, 28, 56, 62, 119, 193, 45, 94, 109, 172, 169, 149, 79, 189, 100, 125, 131, 57, 32, 139, 14, 27, 152, 47, 15, 147, 95, 39, 112, 118, 151, 38, 26, 175, 11, 200, 1, 161, 120, 63, 115, 12, 60, 129, 80, 7, 33, 192, 166, 123, 13, 23, 84, 116, 6, 163, 16, 52, 5, 18, 71, 154, 78, 69, 3, 49, 121, 199, 159, 72, 86, 36, 54, 92, 97, 35, 34, 150, 173, 168, 130, 190, 141, 99, 17, 87, 134, 20, 155, 111, 153, 170, 102, 31, 135, 9, 194, 50, 4, 128, 140, 143, 184, 40, 110, 191, 98, 44, 195, 58, 24, 65, 74, 64, 22, 197, 188, 113, 142, 136, 107, 103, 83, 19, 145, 53, 68, 167, 59, 177, 21, 182, 2, 122, 176, 117, 51, 48, 67, 183, 61, 82, 42, 124, 37, 93, 162, 73, 148, 127, 66, 146, 29, 91, 108, 160, 157, 104, 25, 132, 43, 96, 88, 46, 77, 133, 90]
b = [324, 257, 249, 377, 304, 262, 166, 154, 249, 301, 367, 260, 253, 350, 227, 206, 220, 169, 252, 239, 109, 83, 260, 359, 255, 239, 284, 307, 211, 208, 263, 265, 256, 104, 84, 118, 181, 312, 238, 139, 203, 281, 341, 318, 228, 268, 289, 225, 256, 188, 89, 171, 153, 41, 179, 199, 62, 162, 242, 134, 151, 230, 269, 189, 64, 201, 186, 211, 201, 162, 281, 183, 178, 127, 72, 189, 209, 87, 40, 225, 358, 289, 136, 36, 107, 200, 122, 169, 179, 68, 57, 23, 89, 225, 232, 147, 72, 52, 170, 320, 358, 231, 158, 122, 90, 146, 189, 132, 69, 184, 323, 341, 298, 320, 331, 240, 116, 104, 221, 154, 175, 266, 264, 323, 272, 133, 166, 144, 203, 244, 54, 132, 268, 283, 327, 224, 150, 301, 289, 142, 239, 253, 82, 89, 139, 138, 86, 219, 385, 301, 255, 278, 243, 210, 186, 102, 164, 198, 121, 235, 226, 236, 198, 203, 184, 124, 298, 293, 168, 99, 115, 250, 244, 143, 124, 166, 161, 130, 255, 235, 221, 275, 193, 212, 175, 120, 199, 268, 317, 261, 129, 157, 175, 139, 184, 134, 123, 210, 223]
check_solution(a, b)

lengths = [3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20, 100, 200, 500]
lengths = [10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 15, 15, 20, 100, 200, 500]
for i in lengths:
a, b = generate_problem(i)
check_solution(a, b)

perform_tests()



The code review itself

• I'm not convinced your solution is O(n^2). It rather looks like O(n^3) to me. Or does 0 < a <= n and a not in a_array average O(1) somehow? Oct 1, 2020 at 11:00