Define the subset sum with interval integer target problem (SSIITP) as follows:


  • A multiset $S = \{a_1, …, a_p\}$ of positive integers $a_i$.
  • An integer $T$.

SSIITP Output:

  • True, if there is a subset $S’ \subseteq S$ such that $\sum_{x \in S'} x \in T .. 2T$.
  • False, otherwise.

Where $a .. b$, for two integers $a$ and $b$, is an integer interval including every integer between $a$ and $b$: $a, a+1, a+2, \dots, b-2, b-1, b$.

Is SSIITP NP-hard?


1 Answer 1


The problem is solvable in polynomial time and hence it is not $\mathsf{NP}$-hard (unless $\mathsf{P}=\mathsf{NP}$).

Here is a polynomial-time algorithm: assume without loss of generality that $T \ge 1$, that $a_n > 2T$, and that, for $i=1,\dots,n-1$, $a_i \le a_{i+1}$. Moreover, we can also assume that there is no $a_j$ that satisfies $T \le a_j \le 2T$ (since otherwise the answer is trivially "true").

Define $\sigma(j) = \sum_{i=1}^j a_i$. If there is any $j \in \{1,\dots, n\}$ that satisfies $T \le \sigma(j) \le 2T$ then $\{a_1, \dots, a_j\}$ is a feasible solution and the answer is "true".

On the contrary, if for every $j$ you have $\sigma(j) < T$ or $\sigma(j)>2T$, then you can immediately answer "false".

To see that this is indeed the case, define $j^* \ge 1$ as the smallest value of $j$ that satisfies $\sigma(j)>2T$ (notice that $j^*$ always exists since $\sigma(n) \ge a_n > 2T$). We must simultaneously have $\sigma(j^*-1) < T$ and $\sigma(j^*) > 2T$, hence $a_{j^*} = \sigma(j^*) - \sigma(j^*-1) > T$, which implies $a_{j^*} > 2T$.

Clearly, for all $j \ge j^*$ we have $a_j \ge a_{j^*} > 2T$ and hence no solution can possibly contain $a_j$. However, the sum of the elements in any subset of $S \setminus \{a_{j^*}, \dots, a_n\} = \{a_1, \dots, a_{j^*-1}\}$ can be at most $\sigma(j^*-1)<T$. This shows that there is no feasible solution.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In English: If there's a term whose value is between T and 2T, then it trivially satisfies the criteria; We can ignore any term whose value is >2T. It can't be part of a solution; If the remaining terms sum to <T there's no solution; Otherwise, we can start with the empty set and arbitrarily add terms to it until arriving at something which is >=T. Since no one term is >=T, it's not possible, by adding a single term, to have the sum jump from <T to >2T (since the new sum is just the old sum plus the new term) $\endgroup$
    – dspyz
    Nov 3, 2021 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @dspyz. Great explanation! A straightforward implementation of the algorithm in my answer requires time $\Theta(n \log n)$, while an implementation of the steps in your comment only requires linear time. (Perhaps the comment can be turned into an answer?) $\endgroup$
    – Steven
    Nov 3, 2021 at 18:16

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