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GCHQ Christmas puzzle: Can you solve puzzle from Britain’s top cybersecurity agency?


The United Kingdom’s (UK) Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has released a cryptic Christmas puzzle for those aged between 11 and 18, testing their minds in a series of festive challenges.

More than 1,000 secondary schools signed up for the event this year as the third annual edition of the challenge gets underway. It was designed after a Christmas card sent by Anne Keast-Butler, the director of the UK intelligence agency.

GCHQ, similar to the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA), is a British intelligence agency that focuses on gathering and analyzing information from communications to help protect national security and counter threats.

Challenges enclosed in the card are designed to test valuable skills such as codebreaking, maths, and analysis. They get progressively harder as the challenges go on and each has a connection to Christmas in some shape or form.

There are seven questions in total, some focused on word problems and others on numerical challenges. Here’s a look at the first question.

This is the first question and therefore the easiest. It asks participants to place the nine green gift tags in three groups of three. Each group is defined by a single word that links all three of the tags. When combined, those three answers are linked by another word that can follow ‘Christmas’. We’ll leave you to work out the answer…

How to take part in the 2024 GCHQ Christmas puzzle

If you head to the GCHQ website, you can find the full PDF of all seven questions, as well as hints, a blank worksheet to hand out to classes, and a teaching pack for educators. Children are encouraged to work in groups, pooling their knowledge to succeed in the various different challenges.

All of the resources are free to download, as well as the challenge from 2022. The GCHQ encourages participants to share their results on social media and even ask for help from online communities as needed, with the GCHQ itself offering tips online.

Featured image: GCHQ

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