Advent of Code 2018

This past December I discovered the Advent of Code challenge, in which you get a different coding puzzle for each day in December leading up to Christmas. The puzzles can be solved in any programming language of your choice.

I decided to solve the puzzles in Elixir, which is a newer language that I am starting to use at work. The creator of Elixir, José Valim, was solving the puzzles as well and live streaming his solutions. Other Elixir experts were also publishing solutions, such as Saša Jurić. This was so cool! A fabulous way to learn a new language.

Due to time constraints I only attempted about half of the puzzles with my solutions posted here. I was hoping to go back and finish the rest of the puzzles but that hasn’t happened so I’m wrapping this up with a blog post now.


Partway through I realized it would be helpful to myself to capture personal insights for each solution, so I left some commentary in the code solutions themselves which I am reproducing here:

Day 5 For this solution, I found that converting each individual character to a String for purpose of doing downcase() was performance impacting (total 30 seconds to solve puzzle). So I switched to using assumption that input was only ascii letters (and added a validation check to ensure this assumption holds). Thus I could compare upper/lower case by adding 32 to the value instead of converting to string. Solution runs 15x faster.
Day 6 The performance of my solution is lacking, it took 30 seconds to solve Part 1 on my laptop. Part 2 solution was even worse - 2 min 26 s. If I had more time I would go back and optimize!
Day 7 First part was OK, second part took a long time to solve. First puzzle where my code worked for the test data but didn't work for the full solution. (Turned out I read the challenge wrong.. was using wrong number of workers). Passing a lot of parameters around. Might be easier to pass state around as a single map structure than as individual parameters.
Day 8 Got bitten by elixir when doing efficient building a list by appending to the start but then forgetting to reverse list at the end (when order became important)! This caused some grief. I could have noticed this error sooner if I ran the tests more frequently during development.
Day 9 Nice to use Stream.unfold for the first time, also learned how to sleep in elixir.
Day 10 Things I learned today, you can do pattern matching in anonymous functions! Part 1 was solved in a straightforward, albeit not great performance way. Part 2 The non-performant solution was no longer reasonable. I tried a few optimizations but couldn't make it fast enough. Then I found this hint: but by that point it was the end of the night and I didn't feel like implementing it.
Day 18 Felt really good about solving this one, my growing familiarity with the elixir modules is starting to pay off. Assist to my wife for talking through Part 2 strategy with me.