Reverse a String

A typical programming interview question is “reverse a string, in place”. if you understand pointers, the solution is simple. even if you don’t, it can be accomplished using array indices. i usually ask candidates this question first, so they get the algorithm in their head. then i play dirty by asking them to reverse the string word by word, in place. for example if our string is “the house is blue”, the return value would be “blue is house the”. the words are reversed, but the letters are still in order (within the word).

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100 Doors in a Row

Problem: you have 100 doors in a row that are all initially closed. you make 100 passes by the doors starting with the first door every time. the first time through you visit every door and toggle the door (if the door is closed, you open it, if its open, you close it). the second time you only visit every 2nd door (door #2, #4, #6). the third time, every 3rd door (door #3, #6, #9), etc, until you only visit the 100th door.

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Red Marbles, Blue Marbles

Problem: you have two jars, 50 red marbles, 50 blue marbles. you need to place all the marbles into the jars such that when you blindly pick one marble out of one jar, you maximize the chances that it will be red. (when picking, you’ll first randomly pick a jar, and then randomly pick a marble out of that jar) you can arrange the marbles however you like, but each marble must be in a jar.

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Bumblebee

problem: two trains enter a tunnel 200 miles long (yeah, its a big tunnel) travelling at 100 mph at the same time from opposite directions. as soon as they enter the tunnel a supersonic bee flying at 1000 mph starts from one train and heads toward the other one. as soon as it reaches the other one it turns around and heads back toward the first, going back and forth between the trains until the trains collide in a fiery explosion in the middle of the tunnel (the bee survives). how far did the bee travel?

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int atoi( char* pStr )

Problem: write the definition for this function without using any built-in functions. if pStr is null, return 0. if pStr contains non-numeric characters, either return 0 (ok) or return the number derived so far (better) (e.g. if its “123A”, then return 123). assume all numbers are positive. plus or minus signs can be considered non-numeric characters. in order to solve this program, the programmer must understand the difference between the integer 0 and the character ‘0’, and how converting ‘0’ to an int, will not result in 0. in other words, they have to understand what ascii is all about.

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Daughters’ Ages

Two MIT math grads bump into each other at Fairway on the upper west side. They haven’t seen each other in over 20 years.

the first grad says to the second: “how have you been?”
second: “great! i got married and i have three daughters now”
first: “really? how old are they?”
second: “well, the product of their ages is 72, and the sum of their ages is the same as the number on that building over there..”
first: “right, ok.. oh wait.. hmm, i still don’t know”
second: “oh sorry, the oldest one just started to play the piano”
first: “wonderful! my oldest is the same age!”

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Palindromes

Problem: this year on October 2, 2001, the date in MMDDYYYY format will be a palindrome (same forwards as backwards).
10/02/2001
when was the last date that this occurred on? (see if you can do it in your head!)

Solution

olution: we know the year has to be less than 2001 since we already have the palindrome for 10/02. it can’t be any year in 1900 because that would result in a day of 91. same for 1800 down to 1400. it could be a year in 1300 because that would be the 31st day. so whats the latest year in 1300 that would make a month? at first i thought it would be 1321, since that would give us the 12th month, but we have to remember that we want the maximum year in the 1300 century with a valid month, which would actually be 1390, since 09/31 is a valid date.

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