Parsing Input is Hard (AoC 2022 Day 1-5)

Parsing Input is Hard (AoC 2022 Day 1-5)

For the past few days, I’m doing some puzzle challenge in Advent of Code. Basically you are given a puzzle and you can solve it with some kind of programming. There will be one puzzle for each day from 1 until 25 December. You can check about it on their website for more info.

Last year I also solved some AoC problem but couldn’t finished all of it. I only got 31 out of 50 stars. This year I hope that I can solve all of the puzzles.

Each puzzle usually has problem statement and input. The problem statement itself usually a long story with some explanation about what should we do with the input. We have to solve it and get the correct answer to submit.

There are two parts for one problem but only one input for these two parts. Each part usually will have different instruction. After you successfully submit the correct answer for part one, then you can submit the answer for part two. You will get one star for each part you successfully submit. So there will be 50 stars total for all parts.

I use C++ and Python to solve the problems. I choose those two programming languages for no particular reason other than I usually use C++ in many online judges like Codeforce and Python for some problem with very hard input to parse.

AoC input is not structured to be easy to parse. I think the input parsing itself is also part of the problem. Because I’m not too familiar with string parsing in C++, so I use Python because it’s easier to use for parsing.

I also don’t have to worry about complexity of my solution or some tricky corner case because there is only one exact input for each problem. I can just implement solution and some hack from the input given.

I will summarize my attempt to solve each problem from day 1 to day 5. A little bit too late to post today for first 5 days, but maybe I will post on time for the next 5 days.

If all my explanation above is confusing, you can go ahead and try it yourself. You should read the problem statement first (and maybe solve it), so you understand what I’m talking about bellow.

Day 1: Calorie Counting

Full problem statement

Most of the beginning of the statement is just explanation about how to get stars in AoC.

The problem is pretty straightforward, given list of numbers and that numbers are grouped into several groups.

For part one, get the sum for each group and find the largest value of that sum to get the answer.

I just create array of the sum and the find the maximum element of that array.

For part two, find the top three largest value of that sum then add those three value to get the answer.

Fortunately the part two is not too different, so I just change it to sort the array by descending order then sum the first three of its elements.

Solution Code

Day 2: Rock Paper Scissors

Full problem statement

After reading the problem, this is basically this is just some kind of ‘Rock Paper Scissor’ game.

The input is list of symbol {A,B,C} {X,Y,Z}.

  • A and X : Rock.
  • B and Y : Paper.
  • C and Z : Scissors.

For part one, the symbol on the left (A,B,C) is the opponent moves and symbol on the right (X,Y,Z) is our move. We get score for each result.

  • Lose : 0.
  • Draw : 3.
  • Win : 6.

Also you got extra point for each move you use.

  • Rock : 1.
  • Paper : 2.
  • Scissors : 3.

Get the total score for all the result of all moves in the input.

For this part, I just convert the symbol to number and then compare it to get the result.

This is some part of the code.

  // op is opponent move, and me is my move
  res += me - 'X' + 1; // extra point for each move
  if (op - 'A' == me - 'X') // draw
    res += 3;
  else if (op - 'A' < me - 'X') // win
    res += 6;

I run the solution and submit the answer and then… wrong answer.

I think a bit and stare at my code then realize the bug of my solution. Condition op - 'A' < me - 'X' does not always mean a win because. When op is A (Rock) and me is Z (Scissors), it means a lose.

So because I’m too lazy to find some math formula for it, I just do some manual comparison to determine a win.

  // op is opponent move, and me is my move
  res += me - 'X' + 1; // extra point for each move
  if (op - 'A' == me - 'X') // draw
    res += 3;
  else if (me == 'X' && op == 'C' || // win
           me == 'Y' && op == 'A' ||
           me == 'Z' && op == 'B')
    res += 6;

Now for part two, a bit different. The second symbol is the result you should get.

  • X : lose.
  • Y : draw.
  • Z : win.

The goal is the same as before, get the total score based on the win/draw/lose result + extra score from move you play.

First I think that I should implement solution to manually check all possible condition just like before. But then I get some nice solution using modulo operation.

I implement my solution and then submit the answer… then of course wrong answer for the first attempt.

Then I remember that in C++, modulo operation with negative number can result to negative number. I search from some of my old code to handle this and found this function.

int mod(int a, int b)
  return (a % b + b) % b;

Just replace the modulo operation using that function and I get correct answer.

Solution Code

Day 3: Rucksack Reorganization

Full problem statement

The input is list of strings.

For part one, we divide each string into two and both have the same length. We have to find the same character from both half and then convert it to priority.

  • a through z have priorities 1 through 26.
  • A through Z have priorities 27 through 52.

We have to find the sum of those priorities.

Pretty straightforward, I just implement it and then run with the sample input. Then I get different answer compare to the answer of sample input.

After some debugging, turns out for each string, we only have to find the same character exactly once. My code consider duplicate character also part of it. The easiest solution is just convert the string to set of char, so there will be no duplicate character.

Okay, this solution is correct.

For part two it’s different problem. For every 3 strings, find the same character from those strings then do the same as part one.

Because I’m too lazy to find the ‘clever’ solution. I just make three loops to find the character.

First loop, compare set of char (from string 1) and string 2 then insert the same character from those two into new set.

Second loop, compare the result of set before to string 3 then insert the same character from those two into new set (basically the same).

Finally third loop, the result of set before contains the same character from those three strings, so I just need to convert it to priority.

So many code duplication but whatever, I can’t think any more good solution for this part.

If you confuse about my solution for this problem, just read the code from the link bellow.

Solution Code

Day 4: Camp Cleanup

Full problem statement

The input is list of pair of ranges.

For part one, count how many pair that one of its range is inside another range. Here is the sample input.


This is straightforward, but for me the hard part is parsing the input with C++. So I just go straight to implement the solution with Python.

I can just split the string using built in method in Python and easily get the range of both value.

from sys import stdin

for s in stdin:
    a, b = s.strip().split(',')
    la, ra = map(int, a.split('-')) # range a
    lb, rb = map(int, b.split('-')) # range b

Then I just check if la <= lb <= rb <= ra or lb <= la <= ra <= rb. The first condition means range b is inside the range a and the second one is vise versa. I submit the answer and correct.

For part two, count how many pair that overlap each other range.

First solution that I implement is just to check if ra <= lb or rb <= la and think it’s enought to assume both condition is to check overlap.

I run the solution and submit the answer then… wrong answer.

I try to think for a while and then realize I also have to check the other end of the range has to be outside another range.

Because I don’t want to type too many condition, I just count how many pair that does not overlap with condition ra < lb or rb < la. Then I just subtract the total of pair to it to get the answer.

Solution Code

Day 5: Supply Stacks

Full problem statement

The input has two parts. The first part is the stacks of character and next part is the query. The query has structure “move n from a to b“.

For part one, each query we have to move n character from stack a to stack b. Because this is a stack, the operation LIFO (Last In First Out). So we have to move n character from top of stack a one by one to top of stack b.

Simple enough.

But the challenge itself for me is to parse the stack. Here is the sample input of the stack.

[N] [C]
[Z] [M] [P]
 1   2   3

The input looks hard to parse. I immediately use Python to try to implement the input parser first.

After about several minutes trial and error to create the input parser, I give up. I just modify the input to something that easier to parse.

I check the actual input for the problem and the number of stacks is only 9. So it’s doable to manually change it.

I manually modify the input of the stack to something like this.


The number at the top indicate how many stack for the input bellow it. Now it’s easier to parse.

For the second part, instead of move n character from top of the stack one by one, you have to move the top n character from stack a to b without changing its position.

I spent most of the time debugging my code because I forget that list in Python is mutable and I got wrong answer for several submission.

Solution Code


I’m sorry if my explanation above is bad. At least I try to tell what I’m doing and every struggle for each problem.

The problem for this first 5 days is still pretty straightforward. My biggest struggle is of course the day 5 because of the unortodox input formatting.

Usually the difficulty spike (for me) starts from day 10. Then I can’t solve any problem on the last few days. But I hope for this year, at least I can solve all of the problem even though I can’t solve the problem at the same day.

This is my stats for day 1 to 5.

Day 1 - 5 Stats
Not Too Bad Stats

Only top 100 that get score, other than that will get zero score. You can take a look at AoC leaderboard.

I start late in day 2 because it’s Friday and I have Jumu’ah Prayer at noon. Also start very late in day 3 because I forget about AoC that day. That makes me to set reminder everyday to do AoC everyday.

You can check my solution for this AoC on this github repo.

Maybe I should start to write the post for day 6 to 10, so I can finish and post it on time. Let’s see…