The Maze
In this problem, we are required to find if there exists a path for the ball to reach the destination from the start, given a maze with walls and empty spaces. The ball can roll in four directions but will stop only when it hits a wall.
Here’s an approach to solve this problem:
Initialize Variables: Use a 2D array
visited
to keep track of the cells that have been visited.DepthFirst Search (DFS): Use DFS to explore the paths from the starting point. If the destination is reached, return
True
. If not, continue the search.Handling Direction: In each step, choose one of the four directions (up, down, left, right) and keep moving in that direction until hitting a wall. Then recursively apply DFS from the stopping point.
Termination Conditions: If the current cell has been visited or if the ball goes outside the maze or hits a wall, stop the DFS in that direction.
Return Result: If a path is found, return
True
. If DFS is completed without finding the destination, returnFalse
.
Here’s the code that follows the above logic:


Key Takeaways
 The given problem can be efficiently solved using DepthFirst Search (DFS).
 Careful handling of movement in four directions ensures that the ball keeps moving until it hits a wall.
 The
visited
array helps in optimizing the search by preventing revisiting the same cell.  The time complexity of this solution is (O(m \times n)), where (m) and (n) are the number of rows and columns in the maze. The space complexity is also (O(m \times n)).
Identifying Problem Isomorphism
“The Maze” is similar to “Flood Fill”. Both model a gridbased space and involve navigating this space under specific rules.
In “The Maze”, you are given a maze represented as a 2D grid. The goal is to determine whether you can navigate from the start position to the destination. The catch is that you can’t just move one step at a time; once you start moving in one direction, you keep going until you hit a wall.
“Flood Fill” also presents a 2D grid. The task is to change the color of an image from a starting point. This change should only affect the pixels that are the same color as the starting pixel and are connected to it, either directly or through other pixels of the same color.
They share the common theme of exploring a 2D grid space under specific movement rules. “Flood Fill” is simpler problem because its movement rules are less constrained and it’s generally easier to implement a solution. “The Maze” is more complex due to its unique movement rule.
10 Prerequisite LeetCode Problems
The Maze is a graph theory problem where you have to find a path in a maze from a starting point to a destination. This problem is typically solved using DepthFirst Search (DFS) or BreadthFirst Search (BFS).
200. Number of Islands: This problem introduces you to the DFS/BFS traversal in a grid.
127. Word Ladder: In this problem, you use BFS to find the shortest path from one word to another.
130. Surrounded Regions: This problem also involves DFS/BFS traversal in a grid.
994. Rotting Oranges: This is a problem where BFS is used to solve a grid problem in levels.
542. 01 Matrix: This problem also uses BFS in a grid to find the distance to the nearest 0 for each cell.
207. Course Schedule: A problem about detecting a cycle in a directed graph.
210. Course Schedule II: A continuation of the previous problem where you have to return the ordering of courses.
785. Is Graph Bipartite?: A problem that involves coloring nodes of a graph which can be solved using DFS/BFS.
733. Flood Fill: An image is given to you which is represented by a 2D array, and you need to apply the BFS/DFS algorithm.
279. Perfect Squares: This problem is a BFS problem where BFS nodes are all the possible results for the current step.
These cover DFS/BFS in both simple and complex scenarios. They also provide a good introduction to problems that involve finding paths in a graph or a grid, which is the key challenge in The Maze problem.
Problem Analysis and Key Insights
What are the key insights from analyzing the problem statement?
Problem Boundary
What is the scope of this problem?
How to establish the boundary of this problem?
Problem Classification
Problem Statement:There is a ball in a maze with empty spaces (represented as 0) and walls (represented as 1). The ball can go through the empty spaces by rolling up, down, left or right, but it won’t stop rolling until hitting a wall. When the ball stops, it could choose the next direction.
Given the m x n maze, the ball’s start position and the destination, where start = [startrow, startcol] and destination = [destinationrow, destinationcol], return true if the ball can stop at the destination, otherwise return false.
You may assume that the borders of the maze are all walls (see examples).
Example 1:
Input: maze = [[0,0,1,0,0],[0,0,0,0,0],[0,0,0,1,0],[1,1,0,1,1],[0,0,0,0,0]], start = [0,4], destination = [4,4] Output: true Explanation: One possible way is : left > down > left > down > right > down > right.
Example 2:
Input: maze = [[0,0,1,0,0],[0,0,0,0,0],[0,0,0,1,0],[1,1,0,1,1],[0,0,0,0,0]], start = [0,4], destination = [3,2] Output: false Explanation: There is no way for the ball to stop at the destination. Notice that you can pass through the destination but you cannot stop there.
Example 3:
Input: maze = [[0,0,0,0,0],[1,1,0,0,1],[0,0,0,0,0],[0,1,0,0,1],[0,1,0,0,0]], start = [4,3], destination = [0,1] Output: false
Constraints:
m == maze.length n == maze[i].length 1 <= m, n <= 100 maze[i][j] is 0 or 1. start.length == 2 destination.length == 2 0 <= startrow, destinationrow <= m 0 <= startcol, destinationcol <= n Both the ball and the destination exist in an empty space, and they will not be in the same position initially. The maze contains at least 2 empty spaces.
Analyze the provided problem statement. Categorize it based on its domain, ignoring ‘How’ it might be solved. Identify and list out the ‘What’ components. Based on these, further classify the problem. Explain your categorizations.
Distilling the Problem to Its Core Elements
Can you identify the fundamental concept or principle this problem is based upon? Please explain. What is the simplest way you would describe this problem to someone unfamiliar with the subject? What is the core problem we are trying to solve? Can we simplify the problem statement? Can you break down the problem into its key components? What is the minimal set of operations we need to perform to solve this problem?
Visual Model of the Problem
How to visualize the problem statement for this problem?
Problem Restatement
Could you start by paraphrasing the problem statement in your own words? Try to distill the problem into its essential elements and make sure to clarify the requirements and constraints. This exercise should aid in understanding the problem better and aligning our thought process before jumping into solving it.
Abstract Representation of the Problem
Could you help me formulate an abstract representation of this problem?
Given this problem, how can we describe it in an abstract way that emphasizes the structure and key elements, without the specific realworld details?
Terminology
Are there any specialized terms, jargon, or technical concepts that are crucial to understanding this problem or solution? Could you define them and explain their role within the context of this problem?
Problem Simplification and Explanation
Could you please break down this problem into simpler terms? What are the key concepts involved and how do they interact? Can you also provide a metaphor or analogy to help me understand the problem better?
Constraints
Given the problem statement and the constraints provided, identify specific characteristics or conditions that can be exploited to our advantage in finding an efficient solution. Look for patterns or specific numerical ranges that could be useful in manipulating or interpreting the data.
What are the key insights from analyzing the constraints?
Case Analysis
Could you please provide additional examples or test cases that cover a wider range of the input space, including edge and boundary conditions? In doing so, could you also analyze each example to highlight different aspects of the problem, key constraints and potential pitfalls, as well as the reasoning behind the expected output for each case? This should help in generating key insights about the problem and ensuring the solution is robust and handles all possible scenarios.
Provide names by categorizing these cases
What are the edge cases?
What are the key insights from analyzing the different cases?
Identification of Applicable Theoretical Concepts
Can you identify any mathematical or algorithmic concepts or properties that can be applied to simplify the problem or make it more manageable? Think about the nature of the operations or manipulations required by the problem statement. Are there existing theories, metrics, or methodologies in mathematics, computer science, or related fields that can be applied to calculate, measure, or perform these operations more effectively or efficiently?
Simple Explanation
Can you explain this problem in simple terms or like you would explain to a nontechnical person? Imagine you’re explaining this problem to someone without a background in programming. How would you describe it? If you had to explain this problem to a child or someone who doesn’t know anything about coding, how would you do it? In layman’s terms, how would you explain the concept of this problem? Could you provide a metaphor or everyday example to explain the idea of this problem?
Problem Breakdown and Solution Methodology
Given the problem statement, can you explain in detail how you would approach solving it? Please break down the process into smaller steps, illustrating how each step contributes to the overall solution. If applicable, consider using metaphors, analogies, or visual representations to make your explanation more intuitive. After explaining the process, can you also discuss how specific operations or changes in the problem’s parameters would affect the solution? Lastly, demonstrate the workings of your approach using one or more example cases.
Inference of ProblemSolving Approach from the Problem Statement
Can you identify the key terms or concepts in this problem and explain how they inform your approach to solving it? Please list each keyword and how it guides you towards using a specific strategy or method. How can I recognize these properties by drawing tables or diagrams?
How did you infer from the problem statement that this problem can be solved using ?
Simple Explanation of the Proof
I’m having trouble understanding the proof of this algorithm. Could you explain it in a way that’s easy to understand?
Stepwise Refinement
Could you please provide a stepwise refinement of our approach to solving this problem?
How can we take the highlevel solution approach and distill it into more granular, actionable steps?
Could you identify any parts of the problem that can be solved independently?
Are there any repeatable patterns within our solution?
Solution Approach and Analysis
Given the problem statement, can you explain in detail how you would approach solving it? Please break down the process into smaller steps, illustrating how each step contributes to the overall solution. If applicable, consider using metaphors, analogies, or visual representations to make your explanation more intuitive. After explaining the process, can you also discuss how specific operations or changes in the problem’s parameters would affect the solution? Lastly, demonstrate the workings of your approach using one or more example cases.
Identify Invariant
What is the invariant in this problem?
Identify Loop Invariant
What is the loop invariant in this problem?
Thought Process
Can you explain the basic thought process and steps involved in solving this type of problem?
Explain the thought process by thinking step by step to solve this problem from the problem statement and code the final solution. Write code in Python3. What are the cues in the problem statement? What direction does it suggest in the approach to the problem? Generate insights about the problem statement.
Establishing Preconditions and Postconditions
Parameters:
 What are the inputs to the method?
 What types are these parameters?
 What do these parameters represent in the context of the problem?
Preconditions:
 Before this method is called, what must be true about the state of the program or the values of the parameters?
 Are there any constraints on the input parameters?
 Is there a specific state that the program or some part of it must be in?
Method Functionality:
 What is this method expected to do?
 How does it interact with the inputs and the current state of the program?
Postconditions:
 After the method has been called and has returned, what is now true about the state of the program or the values of the parameters?
 What does the return value represent or indicate?
 What side effects, if any, does the method have?
Error Handling:
 How does the method respond if the preconditions are not met?
 Does it throw an exception, return a special value, or do something else?
Problem Decomposition
Problem Understanding:
 Can you explain the problem in your own words? What are the key components and requirements?
Initial Breakdown:
 Start by identifying the major parts or stages of the problem. How can you break the problem into several broad subproblems?
Subproblem Refinement:
 For each subproblem identified, ask yourself if it can be further broken down. What are the smaller tasks that need to be done to solve each subproblem?
Task Identification:
 Within these smaller tasks, are there any that are repeated or very similar? Could these be generalized into a single, reusable task?
Task Abstraction:
 For each task you’ve identified, is it abstracted enough to be clear and reusable, but still makes sense in the context of the problem?
Method Naming:
 Can you give each task a simple, descriptive name that makes its purpose clear?
Subproblem Interactions:
 How do these subproblems or tasks interact with each other? In what order do they need to be performed? Are there any dependencies?
From Brute Force to Optimal Solution
Could you please begin by illustrating a brute force solution for this problem? After detailing and discussing the inefficiencies of the brute force approach, could you then guide us through the process of optimizing this solution? Please explain each step towards optimization, discussing the reasoning behind each decision made, and how it improves upon the previous solution. Also, could you show how these optimizations impact the time and space complexity of our solution?
Code Explanation and Design Decisions
Identify the initial parameters and explain their significance in the context of the problem statement or the solution domain.
Discuss the primary loop or iteration over the input data. What does each iteration represent in terms of the problem you’re trying to solve? How does the iteration advance or contribute to the solution?
If there are conditions or branches within the loop, what do these conditions signify? Explain the logical reasoning behind the branching in the context of the problem’s constraints or requirements.
If there are updates or modifications to parameters within the loop, clarify why these changes are necessary. How do these modifications reflect changes in the state of the solution or the constraints of the problem?
Describe any invariant that’s maintained throughout the code, and explain how it helps meet the problem’s constraints or objectives.
Discuss the significance of the final output in relation to the problem statement or solution domain. What does it represent and how does it satisfy the problem’s requirements?
Remember, the focus here is not to explain what the code does on a syntactic level, but to communicate the intent and rationale behind the code in the context of the problem being solved.
Coding Constructs
Consider the following piece of complex software code.
What are the highlevel problemsolving strategies or techniques being used by this code?
If you had to explain the purpose of this code to a nonprogrammer, what would you say?
Can you identify the logical elements or constructs used in this code, independent of any programming language?
Could you describe the algorithmic approach used by this code in plain English?
What are the key steps or operations this code is performing on the input data, and why?
Can you identify the algorithmic patterns or strategies used by this code, irrespective of the specific programming language syntax?
Language Agnostic Coding Drills
Your mission is to deconstruct this code into the smallest possible learning units, each corresponding to a separate coding concept. Consider these concepts as unique coding drills that can be individually implemented and later assembled into the final solution.
Dissect the code and identify each distinct concept it contains. Remember, this process should be languageagnostic and generally applicable to most modern programming languages.
Once you’ve identified these coding concepts or drills, list them out in order of increasing difficulty. Provide a brief description of each concept and why it is classified at its particular difficulty level.
Next, describe the problemsolving approach that would lead from the problem statement to the final solution. Think about how each of these coding drills contributes to the overall solution. Elucidate the stepbystep process involved in using these drills to solve the problem. Please refrain from writing any actual code; we’re focusing on understanding the process and strategy.
Targeted Drills in Python
Now that you’ve identified and ordered the coding concepts from a complex software code in the previous exercise, let’s focus on creating Pythonbased coding drills for each of those concepts.
Begin by writing a separate piece of Python code that encapsulates each identified concept. These individual drills should illustrate how to implement each concept in Python. Please ensure that these are suitable even for those with a basic understanding of Python.
In addition to the general concepts, identify and write coding drills for any problemspecific concepts that might be needed to create a solution. Describe why these drills are essential for our problem.
Once all drills have been coded, describe how these pieces can be integrated together in the right order to solve the initial problem. Each drill should contribute to building up to the final solution.
Remember, the goal is to not only to write these drills but also to ensure that they can be cohesively assembled into one comprehensive solution.
Q&A
Similar Problems
Can you suggest 10 problems from LeetCode that require similar problemsolving strategies or use similar underlying concepts as the problem we’ve just solved? These problems can be from any domain or topic, but they should involve similar steps or techniques in the solution process. Also, please briefly explain why you consider each of these problems to be related to our original problem.