Given a string, does & ldquo; xyz & rdquo; appear in the middle of the chain?


Given a string, does "xyz" appear in the middle of the string? To define middle, we'll say that the number of chars to the left and right of the "xyz" must differ by at most one. This problem is harder than it looks.

My solution works without the second last line except for one condition: if str="xyx" Is it possible to modify the for loop to take this into account...I'm struggling with understanding why it doesn't.

My solution does work I'm just trying to get a better understanding of what I'm doing. I know I could add it into the first if statement but I want to know why it doesn't work without it.

public boolean xyzMiddle(String str) {
  for (int i=0;i<str.length()-3;i++) {
    if (str.substring(i,i+3).equals("xyz")) {
      String front =str.substring(0,i);
      String end = str.substring(i+3);
      int a =Math.abs(front.length() -end.length());
      if (a<=1) return true;
  if (str.equals("xyz")) return true;
  return false;

I think i remember this question - it's this question from Codingbat, I believe. Excellent web site, learned a lot from that site back when I started programming. There's absolutely no reason to use a loop, though.

public boolean xyzMiddle(String str) {
  boolean result = false;
  int i = str.length()/2 -1;

  if (str.length() >= 3 && (str.substring(i, i+3).equals("xyz") || (str.length()%2 == 0 && str.substring(i-1, i+2).equals("xyz"))  )) {
      result = true;
  return result;

So, let's walk through this and why it works. Firstly, str.length() >= 3, because if the string isn't at least as long as "xyz", there's no way it can contain "xyz".

There are two main cases to this problem, we need to think of. The string can have an even or an uneven length. In the uneven case, it's easy:

The Uneven case

AAAxyzAAA // length = 9
012345678 // the indexes
    ^     // that's the middle, which can be calculated by length/2
          // (since this is an integer divison, we disregard whatever comes after the decimal point)

So to get the start of the xyz-substring, we simply subtract one from this number - which is exactly what i is doing:

AAAxyzAAA // length = 9
012345678 // the indexes
   i      // i = length/2-1 = 3

So if str.substring(i, i+3) is xyz, we can return true!

The Even Case Now, this can be a bit more tricky, since there is no true "middle" of the string. In fact, two indexes could be called the middle, so we have two sub-cases:

AAAAAAAA // length = 8
01234567 // the indexes
   ^^    // Which one is the true middle character?

In fact, the middle would be between index 3 and 4. However, we are performing integer divisions, length/2 is always the largest (rightmost) of the two possible "middles". And since we calculate i using the middle, the same as in the uneven case applies - str.substring(i, i+3) could be considered the middle part of the string.

   ^^^     // str.substring(i, i+3)

But suppose our string was AAxyzAAA - that could also be considered the middle part of the string. So we need to move our substring check "to the left" - so we subtract 1 from it.

  ^^^      // str.substring(i-1, i+2)
   i       // i is still at "the old" location

So is it even or not?

To check whether the string is even or uneven, we use the modulo operator, %. The easiest way to think of what it does is "what would be left over after i divided with this number?". So 3 % 2 would be 1. In our case, we want to make sure that the number is divisible by 2 with nothing left over - because that means it was an even number. Therefore, we need to check whether str.length() % 2 == 0 before we make our "move-to-the-left" check. If not, we could risk going out of bounds on the string. If the string was 3 characters long, and we moved one to the left... we would check the substring starting at index -1, and that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Put it all together, and there you go!