(Analysis by Spencer Compton)

To solve this problem, we will implement a process that can figure out when a cow was born, given a phrase about when it was born in relation to another cow whose time of birth we already know.

As specified in the problem statement, each phrase will tell us when a new cow was born in relation to a previously mentioned cow. We will use this information to figure out exactly when the new cow was born in relation to Bessie. Since we do this, whenever we receive a phrase we can assume we have already figured out when the previously mentioned cow was born in relation to Bessie.

Now, we figure out how to determine when a cow was born given a phrase. Suppose we are told "Mildred born in next Dragon year from Bessie", how can we figure out exactly when Mildred was born? We can start by setting Mildred's birth year to one later than Bessie's birth year. Then, we can continue to increase Mildred's birth year until it is a Dragon year! We could use a similar approach if we were told Mildred was born in some previous year (we would decrease repeatedly instead of increase repeatedly).

The main remaining challenge is to implement some function that lets us check what type of year a particular year is. There are a few ways we can do this. One way is to look at the difference between the year and Bessie's birth year modulo 12 and check if it matches what it should be for the type of year mentioned in the phrase. Another way is to start at Bessie's birth year and change it one year at a time (keeping track of what type of year it is) until it is the given year, and then checking what type of year it is (as is done in the code below).

Brian Dean's code:

#include <iostream>
#include <map>
#include <string>
using namespace std;
string animals[12] = {"Ox", "Tiger", "Rabbit", "Dragon", "Snake", "Horse", "Goat", "Monkey", "Rooster", "Dog", "Pig", "Rat"};
map<string,int> when_born;
string get_animal(int year)
  int a = 0, y = 2021;
  while (y < year) { y++; a++; if (a == 12) a = 0; }
  while (y > year) { y--; a--; if (a == -1) a = 11; }
  return animals[a];
int main(void)
  int N;
  when_born["Bessie"] = 2021;
  cin >> N;
  string cowa, born, in, relation, animal, year, from, cowb;
  for (int i=0; i<N; i++) {
    cin >> cowa >> born >> in >> relation >> animal >> year >> from >> cowb;
    when_born[cowa] = when_born[cowb];
    do {
      if (relation == "previous") when_born[cowa]--;
      else when_born[cowa]++;
    } while (get_animal(when_born[cowa]) != animal);
  int diff = when_born["Bessie"] - when_born["Elsie"];
  if (diff < 0) diff = -diff;
  cout << diff << "\n";