AoC 2022/16 - Pressured shame


On with Advent of Code puzzle 16 from 2022: with a little help from trial-and-error…

UPDATE: this post is incomplete, the full solution (including part 2) is provided in AoC 2022/16 - Paying a debt.

So… this was hard. December 16th was a working day (mostly, I was in quasi-vacation) so I could not devote all the time to the puzzle.

Which means that I managed to get a decent solution for part 1 (runs in 17 seconds, which is fair by my standards and expectations), but somehow botched part 2.

So I did what I’ve also done last year in this case: cheat a bit. Still solved the puzzle using my solution, no looking at hints and so on, but when it was clear it might take ages then I coded it to spit out the best result so far as soon as a new one was found. Then wait until things seems stable, and try that.

This approach eventually paid. My first guess was rejected (I could have avoided it by just waiting some 10 seconds more), then I got it right.

Hooray for getting the star, shame on me for not coming up with a decent solution for part 2. I call it a draw.

Anyway, let’s at least take a look at part 1, and let’s start with reading the inputs. I opted for a simplified parsing regular expression to just collect stuff in the right places; this has been interesting because I got to (re)discover the Match class/object.

sub get-inputs ($filename) {
         my $match = m{^Valve \s+ (\S+) .*? (\d+) .*? valves? \s+ (.*)};
         $match[0].Str => {
            name     => $match[0].Str,
            rate     => $match[1].Int,
            adjacent => $match[2].comb(/\w+/).Array,

With a little insight from a few days later, I’d probably write it like this for added readability:

sub get-inputs ($filename) {
         my $match = m{^Valve \s+
            $<name>=(\S+) .*?
            $<rate>=(\d+) .*?
            valves? \s+ $<adjacencies>(.*)};
         $match[0].Str => {
            name     => $match<name>.Str,
            rate     => $match<rate>.Int,
            adjacent => $match<adjacencies>.comb(/\w+/).Array,

Anyway, we’re not here to do simple parsing, we’re here to crack a puzzle. At least, the first part of it.

My first –and only– insight was to get rid of all 0-flow valves because they get in the way without providing any advantage. So I decided to calculate a different graph containing only non-null valves (so to speak), where the arcs between nodes give the best time to go from one to the other. As it happens, I have an implementation of the Floyd-Warshall algorithm around, so I used it:

sub generate-graph ($inputs) {
   class FloydWarshall { ... }
   my $fw =
      identifier => -> $v { $v },
      distance   => -> $v, $w { 1 },
      successors => -> $v { $inputs{$v}<adjacent>.Slip.Array },
      starts     => ['AA'],
   my @keys = $inputs.keys.grep({ $inputs{$_}<rate> }).sort;
   my %allowed = @keys.Set;
   my %edges;
   for ('AA', @keys).flat -> $v {
      for @keys -> $w {
         next if $v eq $w;
         my @path = $fw.path($v, $w);
         %edges{$v}{$w} = @path - 1;
   return {
      nodes => ('AA', @keys)
         { $_ => hash(name => $_, rate => $inputs{$_}<rate>) }
      edges => %edges,

Now my problem was to find the best score given the rules and this equivalent graph, which is what find-best-score is for:

sub find-best-score ($graph, $node, $minutes, $done = {}) {
   return 0 if $minutes <= 0 || $done{$node};
   $done{$node} = 1;

   my $score = $graph<nodes>{$node}<rate> * ($minutes - 1); # take

   my $best-sub-score = 0;
   for $graph<edges>{$node}.kv -> $neighbor, $cost {
      next if $done{$neighbor};
      my $score = find-best-score($graph, $neighbor, $minutes - 1 - $cost, $done);
      $best-sub-score = $score if $best-sub-score < $score;

   $done{$node} = 0;
   return $score + $best-sub-score;

It’s a recursive solution implementing a depth-first search over the possible alternatives, with a cut condition on having run out of time (i.e. $minutes having dropped to 0 or lower) or having already visited a specific node (this is cached through argument $done, which starts empty).

At each iteration, we visit the input $node, which is why we start at AA:

sub part1 ($inputs) {
   my $graph = generate-graph($inputs);
   return find-best-score($graph, 'AA', 31);

We also start at minute 31 (instead of 30) because in my hurry I decided that $minutes would be the minute from which I entered a specific node/state. In hindsight, this is quite funny because the changes to make it different (and more intuitive) seem trivial.

Anyway, back to find-best-score, the basic score at this point is taken by opening the valve and accounting for its pressure release from the minute after (see above about it…) on to the end of the simulation.

After that, as anticipated, it’s just a depth-first search. The $done cache is used in two places, not necessarily because this is actually needed, but because I changed my mind a few times and I decided to leave the additional check just to be on the safe side. For each alternative, I’m keeping the $best-sub-score so that I can use it to return the overall score for this node (i.e. the intrinsic score plus the best score with recursion).

I’ll not put the proper answer to part 2 here, because my own solution is despicable at best, and I have yet to code a proper one. Anyway, my self-imposed rule allowed me to go through the SOLUTION MEGATHREAD (because I did solve the puzzle and get the starts, eventually), so I read how I was supposed to address this.

Suppose that we have the solution… what would it be like? Surely…

  • the human and the elephant open different sets of valves, because it makes no sense for either one to open the same valve as the other
  • they jointly choose sets that overall lead to an optimal solution.

The second bullet tells us that it’s not necessarily good to take the best solution in 26 minutes for one of the two, then figure out the best solution in 26 minutes over the other valves that were not open in the first run. This “greedy” approach might land us on a sub-optimal solution.

Instead, one way is to do something like this:

  • compute all solutions that can be obtained in 26 minutes and store them in a basket
  • take every possible pair from the basket, rejecting pairs that overlap (i.e. where the same valve appears in both solutions)
  • take the best pair out of the non-rejected ones.

Well, there are still things to iron out with this plan. One thing is that it might be that every pair might have an overlap. To see this, consider if the total simulation time were 1000 minutes instead of 26: sure every sequence would fit this huge time, including every valve at some point. Result: all solutions would share all valves, representing a permutation over them.

So yeah, I still have to go some way before I have a general solution program.

UPDATE: the full solution (including part 2) is provided in AoC 2022/16 - Paying a debt.


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