This was meant to be an easy problem, and indeed 2 out of 4 people got basically working code, with good modularity. One was in Lisp, the other in Perl. The Perl was substantially longer -- so much for quick and dirty. Another Lisp answer was basically OK but not as polished.

However, the best answers, while clearly written, were inefficient and longer than necessary. The Lisp solutions in particular consed up a storm when calculating distances, when no consing should be needed for that part at all.

And no answer allowed for arbitrary stopping predicates, though the Perl code comments noted this limitation.

The code below, as suggested by the question, uses lists for everything, but still conses much less and is shorter than any submitted code.

(defun test-find-clusters (&optional (n 3)) (find-clusters '((1 1) (2 1) (1 2) (5 5) (4 5) (5 4) (-2 -2) (-1 -1)) #'(lambda (c) (<= (length c) n)))) ;;; (find-clusters point-list stop-fn) => cluster-list ;;; Creates a list of clusters, one per point, then ;;; repeatedly merges clusters until (stop-fn clusters) is true. (defun find-clusters (points stop-fn) (do ((clusters (mapcar #'list points) (merge-closest-clusters clusters))) ((or (null (cdr clusters)) (funcall stop-fn clusters)) clusters))) ;;; (merge-closest-clusters clusters) => clusters ;;; Returns clusters with the 2 closest clusters merged. ;;; DESTRUCTIVE. ;;; Assumes at least 2 clusters (defun merge-closest-clusters (clusters) (multiple-value-bind (c1 c2) (get-closest-clusters clusters) (nconc c1 c2) (delete c2 clusters))) ;;; (get-closest-clusters clusters) => cluster1, cluster2 ;;; Returns the 2 closest clusters ;;; Assumes at least 2 clusters (defun get-closest-clusters (clusters) (let (best-dist save1 save2) (map-pairs #'(lambda (c1 c2) (let ((dist (cluster-distance c1 c2))) (when (or (null best-dist) (< dist best-dist)) (setq best-dist dist save1 c1 save2 c2)))) clusters clusters) (values save1 save2))) ;;; (cluster-distance cluster1 cluster2) => number ;;; Returns the average of the point distances between two clusters. (defun cluster-distance (c1 c2) (let ((sum 0)) (map-pairs #'(lambda (p1 p2) (incf sum (point-distance p1 p2))) c1 c2) (/ sum (* (length c1) (length c2))))) ;;; (point-distance point1 point2) => number ;;; Returns the Euclidean distance between two points (defun point-distance (p1 p2) (let ((sum 0)) (mapc #'(lambda (x1 x2) (incf sum (* (- x1 x2) (- x1 x2)))) p1 p2) (sqrt sum))) ;;; (map-pairs fn list1 list2) ;;; Calls (fn x y) for every pair (x, y) from (list1, list2) ;;; except when x is y. (defun map-pairs (fn l1 l2) (dolist (x1 l1) (dolist (x2 l2) (unless (eq x1 x2) (funcall fn x1 x2)))))