A Characterization of Hard-to-cover CSPs

Theory of Computing Journal (ToC)
Computational Complexity Conference
December, 2015


We continue the study of covering complexity of constraint satisfaction problems (CSPs) initiated by Guruswami, Hastad and Sudan [SIAM J. Computing, 31(6):1663–1686, 2002] and Dinur and Kol [In Proc. 28th IEEE Conference on Computational Complexity, 2013]. The covering number of a CSP instance $\phi$, denoted by ν(Φ) is the smallest number of assignments to the variables of $\phi$, such that each constraint of Φ is satisfied by at least one of the assignments. We show the following results regarding how well efficient algorithms can approximate the covering number of a given CSP instance.

  • Assuming a covering unique games conjecture, introduced by Dinur and Kol, we show that for every non-odd predicate P over any constant sized alphabet and every integer K, it is NP-hard to distinguish between P-CSP instances (i.e., CSP instances where all the constraints are of type P) which are coverable by a constant number of assignments and those whose covering number is at least K. Previously, Dinur and Kol, using the same covering unique games conjecture, had shown a similar hardness result for every non-odd predicate over the Boolean alphabet that supports a pairwise independent distribution. Our generalization yields a complete characterization of CSPs over constant sized alphabet Σ that are hard to cover since CSP’s over odd predicates are trivially coverable with |Σ| assignments.

  • For a large class of predicates that are contained in the 2k-LIN predicate, we show that it is quasi-NP-hard to distinguish between instances which have covering number at most two and covering number at least Ω(loglogn). This generalizes the 4-LIN result of Dinur and Kol that states it is quasi-NP-hard to distinguish between 4-LIN-CSP instances which have covering number at most two and covering number at least Ω(logloglogn).