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## Challenge 3 – The Runner-Up

Moderator

Thanks again to everyone who takes the time to interact / comment on these challenges, it really does benefit my knowledge of the q language!

My next challenge is a simpler one, but I know there’s lots of different ways to solve it.

Given the participants' score sheet for your University Sports Day, you are required to find the runner-up score. You are given n scores. Store them in a list and find the score of the runner-up.

Here's my approach:

``````q)list1: (4;7;9;7;2;8;9)
q)list1: asc list1
q)list1
`s#2 4 7 7 8 9 9
q)list2:list1 except max list1
q)runner_up:max list2
q)runner_up
8``````

Also a solution in python:

``````n = 5
arr = [2,3,6,6,5]
outmax = min(arr)
for i in range(len(arr)):
if outmax < arr[i] and arr[i] != max(arr):
outmax = arr[i]
print(outmax)
``````

New Contributor

Indexing into the descending sorted list of distinct scores works pretty well ok

`q)f:{desc[distinct x]1}q)l:4 7 9 7 2 8 9q)f[l]8`

EDIT: type and scale can matter here when looking for the best option. A version of the original suggestion outperforms mine in a lot of cases

`q)f1:{max x except max x}  // original suggested solutionq)f2:{desc[distinct x]1}q)l:4 7 9 7 2 8 9q)\t:10000 f1 l9q)\t:10000 f2 l16q)longs:100000?100  //scale upq)\t:100 f1 longs38q)\t:100 f2 longs  //lots of duplicates gives the "distinct" solution an advantage19q)floats:100000?100f  // change type to floatq)\t:100 f1 floats392q)\t:100 f2 floats  //advantage disappears when there are few duplicate entries707`

Moderator

@mnolan does this take the second distinct number in the list? If so, thanks! I really like that approach

Valued Contributor

``````q)list1:4 7 9 7 2 8 9
q)ru:@[;1] desc distinct::  /runner-up
q)ru list1
8
``````

Using general list notation (items separated by semicolons and embraced by parentheses) suggests a list is general; better to write a vector as a vector literal.

Composition `ru` is a sequence of three unaries. In evaluation order: select the distinct items; sort descending; select second item.

New Contributor II

@SJT What is the recommended way to chain unary functions? Both  @ and :: do the job, but I thought the former is recommended.

Valued Contributor

Nicely timed question! I’m just up to the chapter on composition in the book I’m writing, Vector Programming in Q, and I need to settle a few questions about it myself. For example, is there ever a reason to prefer Compose to a train suffixed by `@` or `::`?

Nick Psaris commented recently that he favours `::` because it composes directly rather than forming a projection. (I doubt the evaluation overhead is significant, but I get the point.)

Contributors