SETH-based Lower Bounds for Subset Sum and Bicriteria Path

Amir Abboud, Karl Bringmann, Danny Hermelin, Dvir Shabtay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Subset Sumand k-SAT are two of the most extensively studied problems in computer science, and conjectures about their hardness are among the cornerstones of fine-grained complexity. An important open problem in this area is to base the hardness of one of these problems on the other.Our main result is a tight reduction from k-SAT to Subset Sum on dense instances, proving that Bellman's 1962 pseudo-polynomial O∗(T)-time algorithm for Subset Sum on n numbers and target T cannot be improved to time T1-ϵ · 2o(n) for any ϵ > 0, unless the Strong Exponential Time Hypothesis (SETH) fails.As a corollary, we prove a "Direct-OR"theorem for Subset Sum under SETH, offering a new tool for proving conditional lower bounds: It is now possible to assume that deciding whether one out of N given instances of Subset Sum is a YES instance requires time (N T)1-o(1). As an application of this corollary, we prove a tight SETH-based lower bound for the classical Bicriteria s,t-Path problem, which is extensively studied in Operations Research. We separate its complexity from that of Subset Sum: On graphs with m edges and edge lengths bounded by L, we show that the O(Lm) pseudo-polynomial time algorithm by Joksch from 1966 cannot be improved to Õ(L + m), in contrast to a recent improvement for Subset Sum (Bringmann, SODA 2017).

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalACM Transactions on Algorithms
Issue number1
StatePublished - 22 Jan 2022


  • Strong Exponential Time Hypothesis
  • Subset sum
  • bicriteria shortest path
  • fine-grained complexity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)


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