I now present the solution from problem A in 2009 Qualification Round which was called "Alien Language".

You can find the statement of the problem in the Google CodeJam page or follow this link.

The solution is not complex but it has a tricky thing.

The first thing to do is to populate a set of words which will be the dictionary containing the D words of the Alien Language.

Then comes the tricky part, how to process the sequence of characters that might conform a word. There are basically two choices:

• Try each possible combination and see which of those match a valid word.
• For each valid word see if the characters received can conform it.

Both of the choices lead to a right answer but time plays a crucial part in the competence and if you choose the wrong one the program will never end, not at least in a reasonable amount of time.

Let's analyze the solutions:

• If we try each possible combination based on the characters received it can lead to process 27^15 combinations for the large set which is 2954312706550833698643. Forget about processing that in 8 minutes.
And that's only for one test case!
If the number of cases is the highest your program may end up trying to process 27^15 * 500 which is even more!
• If we try to match each valid word to the characters received we will have to try 5000 words per each case. That gives as a 500 * 5000 = 2500000 combinations to process which is definitively not much.

So once decided the approach to take, how to implement it?

What I did is to process each sequence of characters received and generate a list consisting of L sets, each containing the possible characters in that position. After parsing the case it was a piece of cake, for each word I determined the character at each position was in the set of characters at that position in the sequence, if for all characters that happened then the word was possible.

The python file is GCJ2009-Q-A.py and it contains the following:

words = set()

if __name__ == '__main__':
L, D, N = map(int, input().split())
for i in range(D):
for i in range(1, N+1):
characters = input()
characters_set = []
s = set()
flag = True
for c in characters:
if c == '(':
flag = False
elif c == ')':
flag = True
else:
if flag:
characters_set.append(s)
s = set()
result = 0
for word in words:
t = True
for k in range(L):
if word[k] not in characters_set[k]:
t = False
break
if t:
result += 1
print("Case #{0}: {1}".format(i, result))