Can you solve GCHQ's Christmas brainteasers? Put your puzzle skills to the test against Britain's top spies

14 December 2023, 08:06 | Updated: 14 December 2023, 08:27

The 'doughnut', GCHQ's main office in Cheltenham
The 'doughnut', GCHQ's main office in Cheltenham. Picture: Alamy/GCHQ

By Kit Heren

GCHQ has released its annual Christmas challenge, sending the series of puzzles to schoolchildren across the country.

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The UK's signals intelligence agency sent seven brainteasers to over 1,000 British schools.

The puzzles, which get progressively more difficult, test skills like codebreaking, maths and analysis.

People are encouraged to work as a team to uncover a final Christmas message.

The toughest test to date is a maths-based bonus puzzle included in this year's challenge.

The challenge was sent on a Christmas card that included a rare snow-covered image of Bletchley Park, where intelligence agents cracked the Enigma code in the Second World War.

Read more: Ex-GCHQ worker jailed for life after trying to murder US spy in 'politically motivated' knife attack

Read more: History of GCHQ laid bare 'warts and all' in new official book

The GCHQ Christmas puzzle
The GCHQ Christmas puzzle. Picture: GCHQ

The Milton Keynes site was used to host the AI Safety Summit this autumn.

GCHQ director Anne Keast-Butler said: "Puzzles have been at the heart of GCHQ from the start.

"These skills represent our historic roots in cryptography and encryption and continue to be important to our modern-day mission to keep the country safe.

"GCHQ's history at Bletchley Park is represented in this year's Christmas card as a reminder of the role this historic place has played in our wartime efforts but also as home to this year's AI Safety Summit.

"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."

GCHQ's main office in Cheltenham
GCHQ's main office in Cheltenham. Picture: Alamy

Colin, chief puzzler at GCHQ, said: "Our mission relies on people thinking differently and finding inventive ways to approach challenges.

"Like the work at GCHQ, solving the puzzles on the card requires a mix of minds, and we want to show young people that thinking differently is a gift."

More information is available on GCHQ's website, and the answers will be revealed to those who want them at 7am on Friday.

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