# Visualizing Snail Sort

Following my previous post on solving a Lattice Path "puzzle", I will again write about a puzzle (hopefully for the last time!). This post really is mostly just an excuse to use D3!

This is a puzzle found on the CodeWars website. The objective is to write a function that given a square matrix, returns a vector with the elements in snail sorted order. This might be better understood by looking at this picture:

This is a cool and simple algorithm to code so I would advise you to give it a try before reading the rest of the post.

My approach to the problem was what to me seemed to be the most intuitive answer. I kept track of the current top, bottom, left and right wall coordinates and moved through the external walls, top, right, bottom, left in sequence updating the external coordiantes till bottom reached top and left reached right. I reckon this is not the most succint algorithm but at least it seemed ok to me. My solution was:

{% highlight ruby linenos=table %}

def snail(array) return [] if array.length == 0 || array[0].length == 0

top = left = 0 bottom = right = array.length - 1

result = []

while left <= right && top <= bottom

left.upto(right) { |col| result << array[top][col] }
top += 1

top.upto(bottom) { |row| result << array[row][right] } right -= 1 right.downto(left) { |col| result << array[bottom][col] } bottom -= 1 bottom.downto(top) { |row| result << array[row][left] } left += 1

end

result end

{% endhighlight %}

To make it even easier to understand, I made a visualization of the algorithm:

So, the cool thing is that when you submit a solution on CodeWars you get access to the whole history of solutions submitted by everyone and they are even sorted by how "beautiful" they look.

The solution that was considered the most beautiful was this one:

{% highlight ruby linenos=table %}

def snail(array) array.empty? ? [] : array.shift + snail(array.transpose.reverse) end

{% endhighlight %}

Seriously, when I looked at this my first reaction was "What the f*ck!".

Have fun!

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