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.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

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.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Defendant Josef Fritzl, center, is escorted to the fourth day of his trial in the provincial courthouse in St. Poelten, Austria, Thursday, March 19, 2009.

Notorious sex offender Josef Fritzl placed under legal guardianship as worsening dementia

Rod Stewart (pictured on stage in Copenhagen on Sunday June 9) was booed by German fans for supporting Ukraine

Rod Stewart defends show of support for Ukraine after booing at Germany concert

Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit

Police officer found guilty of gross misconduct after joyrider killed child actor and aunt in 60mph pursuit

Mugshot of McNaughton, left, and smiling photo or Mr Coshan, right

Catfisher jailed for life after murdering retired teacher he 'lured' to flat using fake profile on gay dating site

Keir Starmer said he was "really shocked" at the footage

'Shocked' Keir Starmer accuses police of 'animal cruelty' after runaway cow rammed five times with squad car

The OceanGate submersible has five people on board

Poignant CGI shows how deep doomed Titan descended on it's ill-fated final journey to the Titanic wreck

Nigel Farage vows to fix 'broken Britain' as he launches Reform UK election 'contract'

Nigel Farage vows to fix 'broken Britain' as he launches Reform UK election 'contract'

Shanika Ocean who plays DC Anna Gilchrist in Silent Witness

Silent Witness actress tells of terror after hooded man tries to get in her car near Tower Bridge

Police were called to Blair Way, Aberavon on Monday

Man, 24, airlifted to hospital with serious injuries after dog attack

Nigel Farage confirmed his ambition to be prime minister by 2029

Nigel Farage reveals ambition to be Prime Minister by 2029 ahead of Reform UK manifesto launch

A missing American tourist has been found dead on a beach on a small Greek island west of Corfu, local media reports

American tourist who went missing on hike found dead on Greek island days after death of Dr Michael Mosley

Joshua Merchan-Nicholls

Would-be pilot needs £106,000 for flight training after losing support when company that backed him shut down

Alan won eight League titles and three European Cups with Liverpool

Alan Hansen ‘on the mend’ and sounding ‘fabulous’ says his friend Graeme Souness

French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet was one of the five passengers on board Titan

Daughter of 'Mr Titanic' killed in Titan tragedy pays tribute to father one year on from disaster


Greek coastguard caused dozens of deaths in Mediterranean - including nine who were deliberately thrown in water, investigation finds

Police rammed the cow

New ‘heartbreaking’ videos show close up of ‘3rd or 4th attempt’ as police ram 4x4 into terrified cow