Spy Agency Sends Special Challenge To Children

By Alex Steele Dec 14, 2023 #Children #Christmas #Spy #UK

Schoolchildren across the country will put their puzzle-solving skills to the test after the UK’s spy agency launched its annual Christmas Challenge.

The Challenge Is On

GCHQ is the UK’s intelligence, security, and cyber agency who says its mission is to help keep the country safe. Every year, they release their annual brain teaser designed to occupy 11-18-year-olds.

Over 1,000 secondary schools across the nation signed up for this year’s code – which is based on a Christmas card sent by the director of the intelligence agency, Anne Keast-Butler.

“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 director Anne Keast-Butler said in the statement.

The card’s festive picture also features in the final puzzle to reveal the last secret message.

“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,” she added, calling it “one for classmates, family and friends to try to solve together.”

The puzzles are contained within GCHQ’s Christmas card, available to download.

Each of the seven puzzles has a one-word answer that can follow the word “Christmas.” Puzzlers then need to decide which letters to put into the provided grid to reveal the final answer.

Here’s what the GCHQ website says about the challenge:

Today we unveil the 2023 GCHQ Christmas Challenge. The Challenge is presented in the form of a Christmas card, sent by our Director, Anne Keast-Butler, to partners around the world.

Whilst the Challenge has been designed for schools and colleges, we’re encouraging the wider public to take on the challenge to pit their wits against our puzzlers

The year’s Challenge (available to download below) features seven complex puzzles, masterminded by our in-house puzzlers. They are designed to test a range of problem-solving skills and encourage the use of teamwork to reveal the final festive message.

The card design includes a nod to our wartime home at Bletchley Park with a rare image of the snow-covered mansion. It was taken in January 1940, before a photography ban was introduced there, and was discovered in the personal family album of codebreaker Joan Wingfield.

Director GCHQ 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.

Colin, our ‘Chief Puzzler’ shows you how to get started with this year’s Challenge:

The answers to the puzzles will be available on GCHQ’s website at 7 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) Friday.

The agency, now based in the town of Cheltenham in England, encourages children to put their heads together to give them the best chance of solving the puzzles, which each test different skills.

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