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I’ve marked this puzzle as flawed, as given the most reasonable interpretation of the problem there are no patterns and orientations uniquely determined by the colour of the top middle square and the number of black squares.

However, it’s not unsalvageable, as we can add the following extra conditions to come up with a problem that has a unique solution. The first extra condition is to interpret the phrase “These are not necessarily the right way up” to mean “Some of the squares may be shown upside-down” (but

notrotated by ±90°). The second extra condition is to consider that the 2×2 squares are presented in the following order NW, NE, SW, SE.These seem to be reasonable assumptions to solve the problem, as if we were allowed arbitrary rotations and permutations of the smaller squares (without considering the possibility that they might be negatives) then any pattern that gives a solution would also give solutions for the three other rotations of the 3×3 square, which would stop you being able to uniquely identify a solution (unless the solution has rotational symmetry).

This Python program takes these additional conditions into account, and finds the solution. It runs in 36ms.

Solution:The original 3×3 pattern (or the negative of it) is shown below:Of course, two solutions are found. One being the negative of the other. We are asked to give the pattern that requires the least shading.