@xavdid does Advent of Code

Camp Cleanup

Published: 2022-12-04 Original Prompt

Part 1

Like the the last few days, there are a couple of steps to each part:

Let’s do it again!

First is input parsing. We want to turn a pair of --separated numbers into all of the numbers in that range. Python’s range function does this admirably:

def pair_to_range(pair: str):
start, stop = pair.split("-")
return set(range(int(start), int(stop) + 1))

We have to include the + 1 at the end because the range function doesn’t include the last element (e.g. range(1,3) is just [1, 2]). We’re also returning a set instead of a range object, because being able to do set operations later makes our life much easier.1

This next part should look familiar- for each line, we split it by , and map the pair_to_range function over the items:

# list(tuple(...)) included for intermediate clarity
# will be removed soon
list(tuple(map(pair_to_range, line.split(","))) for line in self.input)

We now have a List[Tuple[Set[int]]] (each item in the root list is a 2-tuple of sets (which contain ints)). Here’s the sample input if that’s tough to visualize:

({2, 3, 4}, {8, 6, 7}),
({2, 3}, {4, 5}),
({5, 6, 7}, {8, 9, 7}),
({2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8}, {3, 4, 5, 6, 7}),
({6}, {4, 5, 6}),
({2, 3, 4, 5, 6}, {4, 5, 6, 7, 8})

Now, on each of these pairs of sets, we’ll need to determine if either is a subset of the other. Python makes this simple:

from typing import Set
# include extra type information
# helps with IDE hints, but isn't required for the solution
ISet = Set[int]
def is_either_subset(a: ISet, b: ISet) -> bool:
return a <= b or b <= a

The <= operator between sets implicitly calls the issubset method (docs), which tells us exactly what we need to know: do either of the ranges totally encompass the other?

Now we need to call our function from a list comprehension. Unfortunately, our function takes 2 arguments (a and b), but the map function only returns one item (the generator). Luckily, we can use Python’s spread operator (*) to bridge the gap!

It lets us “spread” a variable to function arguments easily:

# a contrived example
def add(a, b):
return a + b
numbers = (1, 2)
# 1 tuple can't become 2 arguments
add(numbers) # TypeError: add() missing 1 required positional argument: 'b'
# unless you "spread" it!
add(*numbers) # 3
# make sure the element length lines up though...
add(*(1,2,3)) # TypeError: add() takes 2 positional arguments but 3 were given

Because we know our function takes exactly 2 arguments and our map result is exactly 2 elements long, we can safely use the spread operator to combine the two. All together, with sum:

return sum(
is_either_subset(*map(pair_to_range, line.split(",")))
for line in self.input

Eagle-eyed readers will note one last curiosity- is_either_subset returns a bool, yet we can safely pass the resulting List[bool] into sum. It happens that Python’s boolean classes are subclasses of integers, meaning anywhere you can use an int, you can use a bool instead. That’s why True + True returns 2 and not some weird error. Little bit of fun trivia to round out part 1.

Part 2

Ironically, part 2 is slightly simpler for us, given that we already have sets (a data structure for which finding if there’s any overlap is notoriously easy). Everything about the answer is the same, we just need a new function to pass our sets into. It’s a one-liner:

def do_ranges_overlap(a: ISet, b: ISet) -> bool:
return bool(a & b)

Plug that into our answer from part one (replacing is_either_subset) and that’s it!

One More Thing

Given that parts 1 and 2 are so similar, it seems a shame to repeat so much code

Because Python functions are first-class objects (meaning they can be passed around as arguments themselves), we could write a core function that does our mapping/splitting/etc and then provide the filterer as an argument. Here’s how that would look:

from typing import Callable, Set
class Solution(StrSplitSolution):
# a function is typed as a "Callable", which provides info
# about its argument type(s) and return value
def _solve(self, f: Callable[[Set[int], Set[int]], bool]) -> int:
return sum(f(*map(pair_to_range, line.split(","))) for line in self.input)

Then, part 1 becomes return self._solve(is_either_subset). Note that we don’t call is_either_subset here- we’re just specifying which function eventually gets called.

And Another One

Now that we’ve come this far, there’s one more step towards simplicity we can take. Our is_either_subset and do_ranges_overlap functions are pretty simple. Instead of devoting 3 lines to defining and naming a function we really only use in one place, we could define it anonymously, inline. Python’s lambda functions do just that:

self._solve(lambda a, b: a <= b or b <= a)
self._solve(lambda a, b: bool(a & b))

Sometimes seen as too concise, lambdas are great for writing single-use one-line functions (like we need here!). The only odd thing about them is that the return is implicit- the whole expression after the : is what gets returned.

These in hand. our final code becomes:

from typing import Callable, Set
from ...base import StrSplitSolution
def pair_to_range(pair: str) -> Set[int]:
start, stop = pair.split("-")
return set(range(int(start), int(stop) + 1))
class Solution(StrSplitSolution):
def _solve(self, f: Callable[[Set[int], Set[int]], bool]) -> int:
return sum(f(*map(pair_to_range, line.split(","))) for line in self.input)
def part_1(self) -> int:
return self._solve(lambda a, b: a <= b or b <= a)
def part_2(self) -> int:
return self._solve(lambda a, b: bool(a & b))

Concise, yet still quite readable!


  1. The big advantage of range is that, as a generator, it doesn’t have to store all of the numbers in its range at once; range(10) and range(100) use the same amount of memory. But, because we need to know about all of the numbers in the range, we’ll discard that advantage.