AoC 2021/20 - Flashy enhancements


On with Advent of Code puzzle 20 from 2021: an image enhancement algorithm, with a flashy trick.

After the long ride that day 19 was for me, this puzzle seemed more in line with leaving me some spare time to live my life.

Anyway, it managed to flash a bright light in my eyes and make me blind for (luckily) a little time. It was not the puzzle’s fault though, because there are plenty of warnings:

Every pixel of the infinite output image needs to be calculated exactly based on the relevant pixels of the input image.

The trick is that the background of the infinite canvas starts off and the example input yields off for sub-regions that are already off. So I thought… let’s just ignore it for the most part!

BUT my input had that totally off sub-regions would be turned on, which would happen for most of the canvas all of a sudden! Luckily, though, all of these pixels will be then turned off again at the next iteration, which also accounts for the fact that we are required to run the algorithm an even number of times in both halves of the puzzle.

In my implementation I still disregard most of the infinite canvas and just consider some of it around the target image. This is done thanks to an expand function that adds a “frame” around the image, using the right background setup (off or on) depending on the specific step of the enhancement algorithm:

sub expand ($image, $around = 0) {
   my $retval = ${ [ $around, |@$_, $around ] }).Array;
   $retval.unshift: [ $around xx $retval[0].elems ];
   $retval.push: [ $around xx $retval[0].elems ];
   return $retval;

In my representation, on is 1 and off is 0, so the $around variable carries the information about the current background for expanding the image. This is always applied twice (yes, I could have done it directly inside the function itself!), e.g. while reading the inputs:

sub get-inputs ($filename) {
   my ($map, $image) = $filename.IO.slurp.split: /\n (\n+ | $)/;
   my @map = $map.comb(/ \S /).map: { $_ eq '.' ?? 0 !! 1 };
   my @image = $image.lines».comb(/ \S /)».map({$_ eq '.' ?? 0 !! 1 }).Array;
   return {
      mapping => @map,
      image   => expand(expand(@image)),
      around  => 0,

The expanded picture allows us to easily calculate what goes on in a smaller future picture. In particular, the enhancement pass will trim off one light in each border, so the net effect will be that the original image grows by one light in each direction. Function value-at takes care to calculate the new value for a position based on the 3x3 grid around it and the mapping provided as input.

sub value-at ($input, $r, $c) {
   my $bstring = (-1 .. 1).map({ $input<image>[$r + $_][$c - 1 .. $c + 1].join('')}).join('');
   return $input<mapping>[$bstring.parse-base(2)];

sub enhance ($input) {
   my @trimmed;
   for 1 ..^ $input<image>.end -> $ri {
      my $row = $input<image>[$ri];
      @trimmed.push: (1 ..^ $row.end).map({value-at($input, $ri, $_)}).Array;
   my $around = $input<mapping>[0] - $input<around>;
   return {
      mapping => $input<mapping>,
      image => expand(expand(@trimmed, $around), $around),
      around => $around;

As we can see, the data structure that is returned has the image expanded twice again, this time with a value of $around that is calculated by possibly flipping the background light. This addresses both the example input where the background stays off all the time, as well as the real input where it flashes all bright every other enhancement step.

Last, we can show off a bit of Raku in calculating the number of on pixels:

sub calculate-lit ($image) { $image».sum.sum }

I always loved map and having this tiny hyperform ».whatever that fits some specific cases is a real treat. Although, admittedly, it’s easy to miss and I’m not sure it facilitates understanding what’s going on for those who don’t know it.

I guess it’s everything, stay safe folks!

Comments? Octodon, , GitHub, Reddit, or drop me a line!