### Bounding Sequence Extremal Functions with Formations

#### Abstract

An $(r, s)$-formation is a concatenation of $s$ permutations of $r$ letters. If $u$ is a sequence with $r$ distinct letters, then let $\mathit{Ex}(u, n)$ be the maximum length of any $r$-sparse sequence with $n$ distinct letters which has no subsequence isomorphic to $u$. For every sequence $u$ define $\mathit{fw}(u)$, the formation width of $u$, to be the minimum $s$ for which there exists $r$ such that there is a subsequence isomorphic to $u$ in every $(r, s)$-formation. We use $\mathit{fw}(u)$ to prove upper bounds on $\mathit{Ex}(u, n)$ for sequences $u$ such that $u$ contains an alternation with the same formation width as $u$.

We generalize Nivasch's bounds on $\mathit{Ex}((ab)^{t}, n)$ by showing that $\mathit{fw}((12 \ldots l)^{t})=2t-1$ and $\mathit{Ex}((12\ldots l)^{t}, n) =n2^{\frac{1}{(t-2)!}\alpha(n)^{t-2}\pm O(\alpha(n)^{t-3})}$ for every $l \geq 2$ and $t\geq 3$, such that $\alpha(n)$ denotes the inverse Ackermann function. Upper bounds on $\mathit{Ex}((12 \ldots l)^{t} , n)$ have been used in other papers to bound the maximum number of edges in $k$-quasiplanar graphs on $n$ vertices with no pair of edges intersecting in more than $O(1)$ points.

If $u$ is any sequence of the form $a v a v' a$ such that $a$ is a letter, $v$ is a nonempty sequence excluding $a$ with no repeated letters and $v'$ is obtained from $v$ by only moving the first letter of $v$ to another place in $v$, then we show that $\mathit{fw}(u)=4$ and $\mathit{Ex}(u, n) =\Theta(n\alpha(n))$. Furthermore we prove that $\mathit{fw}(abc(acb)^{t})=2t+1$ and $\mathit{Ex}(abc(acb)^{t}, n) = n2^{\frac{1}{(t-1)!}\alpha(n)^{t-1}\pm O(\alpha(n)^{t-2})}$ for every $t\geq 2$.