Testing times: GCHQ releases annual festive puzzle | GCHQ #Testing #times #GCHQ #releases #annual #festive #puzzle #GCHQ

GCHQ has released its annual Christmas puzzle aimed at secondary school children and curious adults ready to test their mathematical, code-breaking and analysis skills.

Puzzlers have to first answer seven questions, each of which has a one-word answer that can follow “Christmas”, before taking letters from the seven answers and placing them into a grid to produce a seasonal message.

The design of the card, which features a rare 1940 photograph of a snow-covered Bletchley Park, home of the spy agency’s top-secret wartime operation, is intended to provide clues as to how to arrange the letters in the eighth and concluding answer.

GCHQ is now based in Cheltenham and conducts global signals intelligence, eavesdropping into phone and other messages, in pursuit of UK foreign policy and national security objectives – hi-tech surveillance that requires advanced technical skills.

Considered the most secretive of the UK’s spy agencies, its annual puzzle is a rare opportunity to engage the public and encourage children to take up science, engineering, technology and mathematics and perhaps pursue a career at GCHQ.

More than 1,000 schools have already registered to take part and they received the puzzle from Monday. It is being released more widely on Thursday to allow anybody else interested to try to solve it.

GCHQ’s Christmas puzzle
The spy agency recommends working in teams to solve the puzzle. Photograph: Supplied

GCHQ, which says it has a team of “in-house puzzlers” led by a man known only as Colin, insists this year’s puzzle – already tested on a handful of children and staff members – is the hardest yet.

Anne Keast-Butler, the director of the GCHQ, said those tackling the puzzle were expected to need to work in teams solve it.

“Our puzzlers have created a challenge which is designed for a mix of minds to solve. Whether you are an analyst, an engineer or a creative, there is a puzzle for everyone. This is one for classmates, family and friends to try to solve together,” she said.

For those who have a solution or have become stuck trying, answers will be available on the agency’s website on Friday morning.

#Testing #times #GCHQ #releases #annual #festive #puzzle #GCHQ

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