I have a square matrix M, which originally looked like this: 133 199 101 121 142 133 199 101 156 142 133 199 108 156 142 133 (so symmetric around the diagonal). Not only that, but each diagonal is constant, so M'[i, j] = M'[p, q] if i + j == p + q , however it has been shuffled both row-wise and column wise. The only solution I could think of was brute forcing all permutations of the rows and columns which is O(n!*n!), which is obviously suboptimal. I also thought of the fact that in this specific matrix, the value counts are 1 2 3 4 3 2 1, but the original matrix is way bigger and there are many duplicate values.

The last idea I have is some sort of greedy reshufling that would work like so:

  1. for each column, find the column that has the most similar values (albeit shuffled).
  2. place them together
  3. repeat until convergence
  4. repeat for rows.
  5. repeat 1-4, but this time take into account the ordering too.

That idea seems unsatisfying though.

The full data is not too huge, 5000x5000, and I only need to restore it once, so I'm not nessecarily looking for the most efficient way, just a robust and easy to implement solution.

  • $\begingroup$ Could you define "diagonal-symmetric matrix"? I can't find a definition by Googling and, while one can probably guess the definition from your example, it would be good to be certain. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ I've added a more precise definition. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 19:36

1 Answer 1


First, note that the matrix can only be restored up to a permutation of the diagonal. To illustrate on your example, when we swap two bottom rows and two left columns, the resulting matrix is also diagonal-symmetric:

133 199 101 121                             199 133 101 121
142 133 199 101        transforms to        133 142 199 101
156 142 133 199                             156 108 142 133
108 156 142 133                             142 156 133 199

So, the good news is, instead of searching for a row permutation and a column permutation, we can fix the order of the rows and permute only columns. Indeed, if we took the original matrix and permuted the rows in any fixed order, by permuting the columns in the exact same order, we get a diagonal-symmetric matrix.

Next, note that, before the permutations, the multiset of numbers in row $1$ was exactly the same as the multiset of numbers in column $1$. The same holds for row $2$ and column $2$, and so on.

After permutations, say row $1$ landed at row $i$, and column $1$ landed at column $j$. Then, the multiset of numbers at row $i$ is still the same as the multiset of numbers at column $j$.

Importantly, the problem seems to be about some large and more-or-less real data, so it is likely that the converse also holds: for any two rows, the multisets of numbers in them are different. If not, perhaps what follows can be tricked to fail by constructing the appropriate data. Anyway, the check is straightforward.

Having noted the above, I propose the following simple algorithm:

  1. Write down the multiset of numbers $S_1$ in the bottom row. (A sorted array will suffice for storage and comparison.)

  2. Search for the column which contains the exact same multiset of numbers $S_1$.

  3. Swap this column with the leftmost one.

  4. Proceed with the next-to-bottom row and find its multiset $S_2$.

  5. Search for the column except the first one which contains the exact same multiset of numbers $S_2$.

  6. Swap this column with the second-to-leftmost one.

  7. Et cetera.

The algorithm can run in $O (n^2 \log n + n^2)$, with some hashing. First, for each of the $n$ rows and each of the $n$ columns, calculate a hash of the multiset of numbers in it (for example, make a sorted array in $O (n \log n)$ and get its polynomial hash). Then, we can consider hashes instead of the rows and columns of the real matrix. After we find the needed permutation of rows, apply it once in $O (n^2)$.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi, thanks a lot for the answer! However, I was unclear in my problem definition. Not only is the matrix diagonal-symmetric, but it has the property that each diagonal is constant, so M'[i, j] = M'[p, q] if i+j == p+q. Sorry about that, I'll clarify the question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @HristoBuyukliev Ow. Perhaps the problem gets easier when we already have a diagonal matrix, as per my answer. We already have a diagonal matrix. To transform it into a diagonal matrix with constant diagonals, we have to again find only one permutation: the permutation will be the same for rows and columns. $\endgroup$
    – Gassa
    Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 20:00

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