In Living With Crazy Buttocks, Stephen Morris told us of a rather interesting party. The story continues…
After winning their trip to Paris, the guests became elated and celebrated with the consumption of some adult beverages. Ever responsible, the host confiscated the keys to all cars to ensure that no one drove home drunk. Later on, when things started to calm down, party-goers started to request the return of their keys claiming to be sober enough for the drive home.
Having once been out-done by the guests, our host took another whack. He distributed all of the keys, but did so randomly. He then presented a challenge he felt sure they’d only be able to satisfy if they were indeed sober enough to drive. They were allowed to exchange keys, but only in rounds. During each round, each party-goer could either do nothing or pair up with another party-goer and exchange the sets of keys each was holding. (Each party-goer could be part of at most one pairing per round.) No one would be allowed to drive home unless everyone recovered their own keys.
The host wished to allow only a fixed number of rounds. To be fair, he wanted to be sure that it would indeed be possible to make the change. However, he also wanted to make it as difficult as possible for the party-goers. What is the minimum number of rounds must allow them to ensure that an exchange would be possible?
For clarity, all key recipients can discuss, share information such as who has the keys of whom, and agree upon a strategy. Also, careful readers will realize that there were 20 guests at the party originally. Sadly, it was a rather disorderly party and some guests did leave early, but many more appeared. Everyone present at the key ceremony had a key confiscated, and everyone with a key confiscated received a key for this challenge, but neither you nor the host knows just how many there are.