Onion Programming

Python 2 - N = 17, 53 characters

Oh I love source-layout challenges with Python...

i=4                     ;
ii=3                    ;
iii=2                   ;
iiii=1                  ;
iiiii=0;R=raw_input     ;
iiiii;w=R().split()     ;
iiiii;n=map(int,w)      ;
iiiii;S=set(n);M=max    ;
iiiii;s=sorted(n)       ;
iiiii;J="\n".join       ;
iiiii;j=" ".join        ;
iiiii;k=M(map(abs,n))   ;
iiiii;A=J(["CORE"]*k)   ;
iiiii;B=sum(n)/len(n)   ;
iiiii;C=j(w[::-1])      ;
iiiii;D=j(map(str,s))   ;
iiiii;E=j(map(str,S))   ;
iiiii;P=A,B,C,D,E       ;
iiiii;print P[i]        ;
iiiii;" /__----__\  "   ;
iiiii;"|/ (')(') \| "   ;
iiii;"  \   __   /  "   ;
iii;"   ,'--__--'.   "  ;
ii;"   /    :|    \   " ;
i;"   (_)   :|   (_)   ";

There's still some unused whitespace, though.

I could still improve the unique character count, but I'll stick with better readability - if there is any at all.

Edit: Oh, it's Stan again!

CJam, N = 5, 27 (26) unique characters

It's 26 characters if I don't count the spaces. The program could actually be converted to one that doesn't use spaces, by just filling up all empty spaces with no-ops (e.g. _; which duplicates the top stack element and then discards, or by sorting the array again and again), but it would just distract from the actual code.

   ;:+d\/ }  
  ;        } 
 ;          }

Test it here.

The core is


(Plus an empty line.)

I'm fairly sure that N = 4 can't be done in CJam (and I'm sure Dennis will convince me otherwise :D). The above has 17 characters, and while it might be possible to get it down to 16 (e.g. if CJam didn't have a bug to choke on :z, which requires {z}%, or by using ARGV), I don't think you can fit it in the layout without introducing a line break within CORE.

All of the implementations are very straightforward solutions to the given tasks. All of them start with l~] which reads STDIN, evaluates it, and puts it in an array.

The previous layer is always surrounded in {...}, which makes it a block that isn't automatically executed. And instead of executing it, I just discard it from the stack with ;, so no layer depends on code in the previous layer. In the Layer 1, the code didn't fit into the first line, so I continued it after discarding the core block.

Now for the actual programs:

  • Core:


    Map abs onto the list, sort it, take the last element, repeat CORE (and a line break) that many times.

  • Layer 1:


    Duplicate the list, take the length, swap the stack elements, get the sum, cast to double, swap the stack elements, divide. I think this can be shorter, but there's no incentive to do so.

  • Layer 2:


    Reverse the array, riffle with spaces.

  • Layer 3:


    Sort the array, riffle with spaces.

  • Layer 4:

    Duplicate, take set union, riffle with spaces.

Some other optimisations are also possible, like reusing the ; and *S of Layer 2, but again, but it doesn't affect the score.

Python 3: N=11, 40 distinct characters

if 1:              
 if 1:             
  if 1:            
   if 1:           
   "p(x(O))    "   
  "p(s(n)/l(b)) "  
 "p(*b[::-1])    " 
"p(*sorted(n))    "

Thanks to @Falko for being my muse. This works, because Python does not create a new scope for each if statement, so the variables persist in the outer print statements. One annoying thing was that a map object (in our case n) can be used only once. So it was necessary to string out the R=E(...) line, but then R was not defined. Therefore I was lucky that there were four spaces left in the first line!

The output can be solved by providing multiple elements *b[::-1] instead of the list. The alternative ' '.join(...) would have been too long.