a problem to solve

John Salerno johnjsal at NOSPAMgmail.com
Wed Mar 22 21:24:33 CET 2006

Ok, here's a problem I've sort of assigned to myself for fun, but it's 
turning out to be quite a pain to wrap my mind around. It's from a 
puzzle game. It will help if you look at this image:


Here's the situation: Each of the four rows in the diagram is considered 
a single 'panel'. Each panel has eight 'switches', which are composed of 
two columns each, and these columns have a total of 20 lights (10 in one 
column, 10 in the other). The picture hopefully makes this description 

The shaded boxes denote which lights turn on when you select that 
particular switch. So, the very first switch in the first row, if turned 
on, would turn on the first four lights, not the fifth, turn on the 
sixth, not the seventh, and turn on 8-14, etc. up to the 20th light.

You can only turn on one switch per panel, so eventually you will have 
four switches lit.

What you are shooting for is to find a combination of four switches so 
that exactly three lights in the same location are lit, no more or less. 
So turning on the first switch in each row would not work, because that 
would mean that the second light in each switch would be lit, and you 
can't have all four lit, just three.

So anyway, the reason I describe all this isn't so you can solve it for 
me, because I really want to figure it out. I just was hoping you can 
give me some tips as to how to implement the algorithm. Maybe Python has 
some functions that I can use to make it easier than it seems.

My plan right now is to do a comparison of panel 1, switch 1, light 1 
with panel 2, switch 1, light 1, then panel 3, switch 1, light 1, etc., 
which sounds scary. I didn't know if Python had a way to compare the 
whole switch in one step, perhaps.

Also, I was wondering how I might implement the switches as data 
structures. Right now I have them as a list of 32 strings, but I thought 
maybe some type of bitwise comparisons could help.

Anyway, any advice for how to proceed would be great! I hope I described 
it well enough.

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