Almost Tight Lower Bounds for Hard Cutting Problems in Embedded Graphs

Authors Vincent Cohen-Addad, Éric Colin de Verdière, Dániel Marx, Arnaud de Mesmay

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Vincent Cohen-Addad
  • Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, LIP6, Paris, France
Éric Colin de Verdière
  • Université Paris-Est, LIGM, CNRS, ENPC, ESIEE Paris, UPEM, Marne-la-Vallée, France
Dániel Marx
  • Institute for Computer Science and Control, Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA SZTAKI), Budapest, Hungary
Arnaud de Mesmay
  • Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Grenoble INP, GIPSA-lab, 38000 Grenoble, France


We are grateful to the anonymous referees for a careful reading of the paper and many helpful suggestions.

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Vincent Cohen-Addad, Éric Colin de Verdière, Dániel Marx, and Arnaud de Mesmay. Almost Tight Lower Bounds for Hard Cutting Problems in Embedded Graphs. In 35th International Symposium on Computational Geometry (SoCG 2019). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 129, pp. 27:1-27:16, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2019)


We prove essentially tight lower bounds, conditionally to the Exponential Time Hypothesis, for two fundamental but seemingly very different cutting problems on surface-embedded graphs: the Shortest Cut Graph problem and the Multiway Cut problem. A cut graph of a graph G embedded on a surface S is a subgraph of G whose removal from S leaves a disk. We consider the problem of deciding whether an unweighted graph embedded on a surface of genus g has a cut graph of length at most a given value. We prove a time lower bound for this problem of n^{Omega(g/log g)} conditionally to ETH. In other words, the first n^{O(g)}-time algorithm by Erickson and Har-Peled [SoCG 2002, Discr. Comput. Geom. 2004] is essentially optimal. We also prove that the problem is W[1]-hard when parameterized by the genus, answering a 17-year old question of these authors. A multiway cut of an undirected graph G with t distinguished vertices, called terminals, is a set of edges whose removal disconnects all pairs of terminals. We consider the problem of deciding whether an unweighted graph G has a multiway cut of weight at most a given value. We prove a time lower bound for this problem of n^{Omega(sqrt{gt + g^2}/log(gt))}, conditionally to ETH, for any choice of the genus g >=0 of the graph and the number of terminals t >=4. In other words, the algorithm by the second author [Algorithmica 2017] (for the more general multicut problem) is essentially optimal; this extends the lower bound by the third author [ICALP 2012] (for the planar case). Reductions to planar problems usually involve a grid-like structure. The main novel idea for our results is to understand what structures instead of grids are needed if we want to exploit optimally a certain value g of the genus.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Mathematics of computing → Graphs and surfaces
  • Mathematics of computing → Graph algorithms
  • Cut graph
  • Multiway cut
  • Surface
  • Lower bound
  • Parameterized Complexity
  • Exponential Time Hypothesis


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