Looking up the details of the language is not cheating. The purpose of studying algorithms is to learn algorithms. That is independent of the language. It is common to discuss algorithms with people that don’t do the same computer languages. Heck, you should be able to explain simple algorithms to people that don’t even code.
I’ll do everything I can to avoid the hint, which is going to give the whole answer away.
I know it’s tough, but the more you struggle, the more you learn.
Two guys go to two different survivalist camps. One is on a beach in the Caribbean with nice weather, a fresh water spring, and fruit dangling from the trees. The other is on a cold and dry and barren mountain, with little food, and roving packs a wolves to keep you on your toes. One is going to have a better time, but the other is going to learn more.
Although, if they use unfamiliar notation, I don’t find it that helpful.
OK, but it’s a chance to learn that notation, or at least get exposed to it.
… or I once-overed I avoid using …
That is 100% normal. There are too many things along two many paths. You can’t explore every path in the forest at once. You go down one. You see paths branching off on each side and you say, “OK, I’ll come back and check those out later.”
I keep a notepad next to my desk. When I see something about which I want to learn more but don’t have time right now, I write it down. Then I come back later.
… or I feel like a “fraud”.
We all feel like a fraud sometimes, especially in the coding world. Google “imposter syndrome”.
I know my initial question is solved, but another important tangent question is basically how should I approach researching that isn’t counterproductive (cheating)?
Just struggle as long as you can. “Cheating” happens. (When I’m alone and night, I sometimes cry into my pillow and admit that I have been defeated by a few algorithms that I just could not solve.) If you find you have to peek, one way to mitigate that is to come back a week later and solve the challenge from memory. You lost the benefit from the struggle, but at least you are making sure that you really learned it.
Again, this is hard stuff. Go easy on yourself.