max() of a list of tuples

Jeff Epler jepler at
Tue Jan 21 23:46:34 CET 2003

On Tue, Jan 21, 2003 at 10:20:54PM -0000, Lee Harr wrote:
> >   Here's another way:
[using sort with a comparison function]
> Yup, that is the way I would go also.
> Very simple & straightforward.
> (tho I might not have used a lambda ;-)

However, you can find the maximum of a list in O(n) comparisons, but you
can only sort a list in O(n log n) comparisons.  I'd endorse a variant of
DSU (decorate, sort, unsort) which would be decorate, max, undecorate.
I think you were calling the largest tuple the one whose final element was
greatest, in which case the following code seems likely:
    def decorate(t): return (t[-1], t)
    def undecorate(t): return t[1]

    def decorated_max(l):
	l = [decorate(t) for t in l]
	return undecorate(max(l))


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