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4th week of Advent of Code '22 in Rust

· 16 min read
Matej Focko

Let's go through the fourth week of Advent of Code in Rust.

Day 22: Monkey Map


Simulating a movement on a 2D map with given instructions. Map becomes a cube in the 2nd part…


This was the most obnoxious problem of this year… and a lot of Rust issues have been hit.


It seems like a very simple problem to solve, but with very obnoxious changes in the 2nd part and also it's relatively hard to decompose »properly«.

Column iterator

In the first part of the problem it was needed to know the boundaries of each row and column, since I stored them in Vec<Vec<char>> and padded with spaces to ensure I have a rectangular 2D “array”. However when you wanted to go through each row and column to determine the boundaries, it was very easy to do for the rows (cause each row is a Vec element), but not for the columns, since they span multiple rows.

For this use case I have implemented my own column iterator:

pub struct ColumnIterator<'a, T> {
map: &'a [Vec<T>],
column: usize,

i: usize,

impl<'a, T> ColumnIterator<'a, T> {
pub fn new(map: &'a [Vec<T>], column: usize) -> ColumnIterator<'a, T> {
Self { map, column, i: 0 }

impl<'a, T> Iterator for ColumnIterator<'a, T> {
type Item = &'a T;

fn next(&mut self) -> Option<Self::Item> {
if self.i >= {
return None;

self.i += 1;
Some(&[self.i - 1][self.column])

Given this piece of an iterator, it is very easy to factor out the common functionality between the rows and columns into:

let mut find_boundaries = |constructor: fn(usize) -> Orientation,
iterator: &mut dyn Iterator<Item = &char>,
i| {
let mut first_non_empty = iterator.enumerate().skip_while(|&(_, &c)| c == ' ');
let start = as isize;

let mut last_non_empty = first_non_empty.skip_while(|&(_, &c)| c != ' ');
let end =, &'_')).0 as isize;

boundaries.insert(constructor(i), start..end);

And then use it as such:

// construct all horizontal boundaries
(|row| {
&mut map[row].iter(),

// construct all vertical boundaries
([0].len()).for_each(|col| {
&mut ColumnIterator::new(&map, col),

Walking around the map

Once the 2nd part got introduced, you start to think about a way how not to copy-paste a lot of stuff (I haven't avoided it anyways…). In this problem, I've chosen to introduce a trait (i.e. interface) for 2D and 3D walker.

trait Wrap: Clone {
type State;

// simulation
fn is_blocked(&self) -> bool;
fn step(&mut self, steps: isize);
fn turn_left(&mut self);
fn turn_right(&mut self);

// movement
fn next(&self) -> (Self::State, Direction);

// final answer
fn answer(&self) -> Output;

Each walker maintains its own state and also provides the functions that are used during the simulation. The “promised” methods are separated into:

  • simulation-related: that are used during the simulation from the .fold()
  • movement-related: just a one method that holds most of the logic differences between 2D and 3D
  • final answer: which extracts the proof of solution from the implementation-specific walker

Both 2D and 3D versions borrow the original input and therefore you must annotate the lifetime of it:

struct Wrap2D<'a> {
input: &'a Input,
position: Position,
direction: Direction,
impl<'a> Wrap2D<'a> {
fn new(input: &'a Input) -> Wrap2D<'a> {
// …


I have used a lot of closures for this problem and once I introduced a parameter that was of unknown type (apart from the fact it implements a specific trait), I got suggested a “fix” for the compilation error that resulted in something that was not possible to parse, cause it, more than likely, violated the grammar.

In a similar fashion, I have been suggested changes that led to a code that didn't make sense by just looking at it (there was no need to try the changes), for example one suggested change in the closure parameter caused disapperance of the parameter name. 😄


I have to admit that Clippy was rather helpful here, I'll include two examples of rather smart suggestions.

When writing the parsing for this problem, the first thing I have spotted on the char was the .is_digit() function that takes a radix as a parameter. Clippy noticed that I use radix = 10 and suggested switching to .is_ascii_digit() that does exactly the same thing:

-                .take_while(|c| c.is_digit(10))
+ .take_while(|c| c.is_ascii_digit())

Another useful suggestion appeared when working with the iterators and I wanted to get the nn-th element from it. You know the .skip(), you know the .next(), just “slap” them together and we're done for 😁 Well, I got suggested to use .nth() that does exactly the combination of the two mentioned methods on iterators:

-            match it.clone().skip(skip).next().unwrap() {
+ match it.clone().nth(skip).unwrap() {

Day 23: Unstable Diffusion


Simulating movement of elves around with a set of specific rules.


There's not much to mention since it's just a cellular automaton simulation (even though the AoC rules for cellular automatons usually get out of hand 😉).

Although I had a need to determine boundaries of the elves' positions and ended up with a nasty DRY violation. Knowing that you you're looking for maximum and minimum that are, of course, exactly the same except for initial values and comparators, it looks like a rather simple fix, but typing in Rust is something else, right? In the end I settled for a function that computes both boundaries without any duplication while using a closure:

fn get_bounds(positions: &Input) -> (Vector2D<isize>, Vector2D<isize>) {
let f = |init, cmp: &dyn Fn(isize, isize) -> isize| {
.fold(Vector2D::new(init, init), |acc, elf| {
Vector2D::new(cmp(acc.x(), elf.x()), cmp(acc.y(), elf.y()))

(f(isize::MAX, &min::<isize>), f(isize::MIN, &max::<isize>))

This function returns a pair of 2D vectors that represent opposite points of the bounding rectangle of all elves.

You might ask why would we need a closure and the answer is that positions cannot be captured from within the nested function, only via closure. One more fun fact on top of that is the type of the comparator

&dyn Fn(isize, isize) -> isize

Once we remove the dyn keyword, compiler yells at us and also includes a way how to get a more thorough explanation of the error by running

$ rustc --explain E0782

which shows us

Trait objects must include the dyn keyword.

Erroneous code example:

trait Foo {}
fn test(arg: Box<Foo>) {} // error!

Trait objects are a way to call methods on types that are not known until runtime but conform to some trait.

Trait objects should be formed with Box<dyn Foo>, but in the code above dyn is left off.

This makes it harder to see that arg is a trait object and not a simply a heap allocated type called Foo.

To fix this issue, add dyn before the trait name.

trait Foo {}
fn test(arg: Box<dyn Foo>) {} // ok!

This used to be allowed before edition 2021, but is now an error.


Not all of the explanations are helpful though, in some cases they might be even more confusing than helpful, since they address very simple use cases.

As you can see, even in this case there are two sides to the explanations:

  • it explains why you need to use dyn, but
  • it still mentions that trait objects need to be heap-allocated via Box<T> that, as you can see in my snippet, does not apply here 😄 IMO it's caused by the fact that we are borrowing it and therefore we don't need to care about the size or whereabouts of it.
C++ parallel

If you dive into the explanation above, you can notice that the Box<dyn Trait> pattern is very helpful for using types that are not known during compile-time. You would use a very similar approach in C++ when parsing some data structure from input (let's say JSON for example).

On the other hand, in this case, it doesn't really make much sense, cause you can clearly see that the types are known during the compile-time, which in C++ could be easily resolved by templating the helper function.

Day 24: Blizzard Basin


Navigating your way through a basin with series of blizzards that move around you as you move.


It's second to last day and I went “bonkers” on the Rust 😄 Proceed to read Solution part on your own risk.


You are given a map with blizzards all over the place and you're supposed to find the minimum time it requires you to walk through the basin without getting in any of the blizzards.


Relatively simple, yet a bit annoying, approach can be taken. It's technically a shortest-path algorithm implementation with some relaxation restrictions and being able to stay on one position for some time, so each vertex of the graph is determined by the position on the map and the timestamp. I have chosen to use Vector3D<usize>, since x and y attributes can be used for the position and, well, let's use z for a timestamp, cause why not, right? 😉

Evaluating the blizzards


I think that this is the most perverted abuse of the traits in the whole 4 weeks of AoC in Rust…

The blizzards move along their respective directions in time and loop around in their respective row/column. Each vertex holds position and time, so we can just index the basin with the vertex itself, right? Yes, we can 😈

Fun fact

While writing this part, I've recognized unnecessary verbosity in the code and cleaned it up a bit. The changed version is shown here and the original was just more verbose.

I'll skip the boring parts of checking bounds and entry/exit of the basin 😉 We can easily calculate positions of the blizzards using a modular arithmetics:

impl Index<Position> for Basin {
type Output = char;

fn index(&self, index: Position) -> &Self::Output {
// ‹skipped boring parts›

// We need to account for the loops of the blizzards
let width = self.cols - 2;
let height = self.rows - 2;

let blizzard_origin = |size, d, t, i| ((i - 1 + size + d * (t % size)) % size + 1) as usize;
index.y() as usize,
blizzard_origin(width, -1, index.z(), index.x()),
index.y() as usize,
blizzard_origin(width, 1, index.z(), index.x()),
blizzard_origin(height, -1, index.z(), index.y()),
index.x() as usize,
blizzard_origin(height, 1, index.z(), index.y()),
index.x() as usize,
.find_map(|&(y, x, direction)| {
if[y][x] == direction {
} else {

As you can see, there is an expression for calculating the original position and it's used multiple times, so why not take it out to a lambda, right? 😉

I couldn't get the rustfmt to format the for-loop nicely, so I've just decided to go with iterating over an elements of a slice. I have used, once again, a combination of two functions (find_map in this case) to do 2 things at once and at the end, if we haven't found any blizzard, we just return the empty space.

I think it's a very nice (and naughty) way how to use the Index trait, don't you think?

Shortest-path algorithm

For the shortest path you can choose and adjust any of the common shortest-path algorithms, in my case, I have decided to use A* instead of Dijkstra's algorithm, since it better reflects the cost function.

Comparison of costs

With the Dijkstra's algorithm I would proceed with the time attribute used as a priority for the queue.

Whereas with the A*, I have chosen to use both time and Manhattan distance that promotes vertices closer to the exit and with a minimum time taken.

Cost function is, of course, a closure 😉

let cost = |p: Position| p.z() as usize + exit.y().abs_diff(p.y()) + exit.x().abs_diff(p.x());

And also for checking the possible moves from the current vertex, I have implemented, yet another, closure that yields an iterator with the next moves:

let next_positions = |p| {
[(0, 0, 1), (0, -1, 1), (0, 1, 1), (-1, 0, 1), (1, 0, 1)]
.filter_map(move |&(x, y, t)| {
let next_p = p + Vector3D::new(x, y, t);

if basin[next_p] == '.' {
} else {


In this case I had a need to use the priority queue taking the elements with the lowest cost as the prioritized ones. Rust only offers you the BinaryHeap and that is a max-heap. One of the ways how to achieve a min-heap is to put the elements in wrapped in a Reverse (as is even showed in the linked docs of the BinaryHeap). However the wrapping affects the type of the heap and also popping the most prioritized elements yields values wrapped in the Reverse.

For this purpose I have just taken the max-heap and wrapped it as a whole in a separate structure providing just the desired methods:

use std::cmp::{Ord, Reverse};
use std::collections::BinaryHeap;

pub struct MinHeap<T> {
heap: BinaryHeap<Reverse<T>>,

impl<T: Ord> MinHeap<T> {
pub fn new() -> MinHeap<T> {
MinHeap {
heap: BinaryHeap::new(),

pub fn push(&mut self, item: T) {

pub fn pop(&mut self) -> Option<T> {
self.heap.pop().map(|Reverse(x)| x)

impl<T: Ord> Default for MinHeap<T> {
fn default() -> Self {

Rest is just the algorithm implementation which is not that interesting.

Day 25: Full of Hot Air


Playing around with a numbers in a special base.

Getting flashbacks to the IB111 Foundations of Programming… Very nice “problem” with a rather easy solution, as the last day always seems to be.


Implementing 2 functions, converting from the SNAFU base and back to the SNAFU base representation. Let's do a bit more though! I have implemented two functions:

  • from_snafu
  • to_snafu

Now it is apparent that all I do is number to string and string to number. Hmm… that sounds familiar, doesn't it? Let's introduce a structure for the SNAFU numbers and implement the traits that we need.

Let's start with a structure:

#[derive(Debug, PartialEq, Eq, PartialOrd, Ord)]
struct SNAFU {
value: i64,

Converting from &str

We will start by implementing the FromStr trait that will help us parse our input. This is rather simple, I can just take the from_snafu function, copy-paste it into the from_str method and the number I get will be wrapped in Result and SNAFU structure.

Converting to String

This is more fun. In some cases you need to implement only one trait and others are automatically implemented using that one trait. In our case, if you look in the documentation, you can see that ToString trait is automatically implemented for any type that implements Display trait.

Let's implement the Display trait then. We should be able to use the to_snafu function and just take the self.value from the SNAFU structure.

And for the convenience of tests, we can also implement a rather simple From<i64> trait for the SNAFU.

Adjusting the code

After those changes we need to adjust the code and tests.

Parsing of the input is very easy, before we have used the lines, now we parse everything:

     fn parse_input<P: AsRef<Path>>(pathname: P) -> Input {
- file_to_lines(pathname)
+ file_to_structs(pathname)

Part 1 needs to be adjusted a bit too:

     fn part_1(input: &Input) -> Output {
- to_snafu(input.iter().map(|s| from_snafu(s)).sum())
+ SNAFU::from(input.iter().map(|s| s.value).sum::<i64>()).to_string()

You can also see that it simplifies the meaning a bit and it is more explicit than the previous versions.

And for the tests:

fn test_from() {
- for (n, s) in EXAMPLES.iter() {
- assert_eq!(from_snafu(s), *n);
+ for (&n, s) in EXAMPLES.iter() {
+ assert_eq!(s.parse::<SNAFU>().unwrap().value, n);

fn test_to() {
- for (n, s) in EXAMPLES.iter() {
- assert_eq!(to_snafu(*n), s.to_string());
+ for (&n, s) in EXAMPLES.iter() {
+ assert_eq!(SNAFU::from(n).to_string(), s.to_string());


Let's wrap the whole thing up! Keeping in mind both AoC and the Rust…

Finished advent calendar :smile:

Advent of Code

This year was quite fun, even though most of the solutions and posts came in later on (cough in '23 cough). Day 22 was the most obnoxious one… And also it feels like I used priority queues and tree data structures a lot 👀

with Rust

I must admit that a lot of compiler warnings and errors were very useful. Even though I still found some instances where they didn't help at all or cause even worse issues than I had. Compilation times have been addressed with the caching.

Building my first tree data structure in Rust has been a very “interesting” journey. Being able to write a more generic BFS algorithm that allows you to not duplicate code while still mantaining the desired functionality contributes to a very readable code.

I am definitely much more aware of the basic things that bloated Python is missing, yet Rust has them…

Using explicit types and writing down placeholder functions with todo!() macros is very pleasant, since it allows you to easily navigate the type system during the development when you don't even need to be sure how are you going to put the smaller pieces together.

I have used a plethora of traits and also implemented some of them to either be idiomatic, or exploit the syntactic sugar they offer. Deriving the default trait implementation is also very helpful in a lot of cases, e.g. debugging output, copying, equality comparison, etc.

I confess to touching more “cursed” parts of the Rust, such as macros to declutter the copy-paste for tests or writing my own structures that need to carry a lifetime for their own fields.

tl;dr Relatively pleasant language until you hit brick wall 😉

See you next year! Maybe in Rust, maybe not 🙃