GCHQ challenges teams of school kids to solve new festive puzzle

The intelligence agency’s annual quiz features a twist this year

School children on computers
GCHQ is challenging school and college pupils to solve its festive puzzle
(Image credit: Compassionate Eye Foundation/Chris Ryan/Getty Images)

School pupils across the country are being asked to solve a series of “fiendish” brainteasers today, set by the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ.

Each year the director of GCHQ Sir Jeremy Fleming sends out a festive puzzle with a Christmas card to his colleagues and “partners in the UK and around the world who work with us to counter threats”.

As last year, the confounding card has been designed for pupils at schools and colleges to team up and take part, although the agency is also asking the wider public to try their luck. It said the puzzles were based on “languages, engineering, codebreaking, analysis, maths, coding and cyber security”, all skills GCHQ require to “help keep the country safe”.

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The Cheltenham-based agency is best known for its work on breaking the German Enigma codes at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, and its seasonal puzzles have now become an annual, and for many a frustrating, tradition. The agency usually “discusses or discloses very little of its operations” but through the annual challenge it is “keen to find ways to promote itself to help with recruitment”, said The Guardian.

This year’s puzzle has a slight twist on previous editions, with the seven puzzles producing the name of an address on the what3words app. The app is designed to help users find places easily by giving each three-metre square in the world a unique three-word name made up of everyday words.

Six of the seven puzzles produce one-word answers which need to be combined to produce locations on what3words, while the seventh puzzle contains the remaining address. The Christmas tree design on the front of the card is a guide to putting the place names together.

Once the place names have been found, taking a single word from each will reveal GCHQ’s “special festive answer”.

Can you solve this year’s GCHQ puzzle?

The answer will be revealed tomorrow (December 15) on the agency’s website. Good luck!

GCHQ 2022 quiz

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Richard Windsor is a freelance writer for The Week Digital. He began his journalism career writing about politics and sport while studying at the University of Southampton. He then worked across various football publications before specialising in cycling for almost nine years, covering major races including the Tour de France and interviewing some of the sport’s top riders. He led Cycling Weekly’s digital platforms as editor for seven of those years, helping to transform the publication into the UK’s largest cycling website. He now works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant.