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British Intelligence challenges you to solve their GCHQ 2021 Xmas Challenge

[Dec 15, 2021: GCHQ]

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Government Communications Headquarters, commonly known as GCHQ, is an intelligence and security organization responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance (IA) to the government and armed forces of the United Kingdom.

Today GCHQ Director, Sir Jeremy Fleming revealed this year’s official GCHQ Christmas card. Each year the card contains a festive brainteaser, only this time it comes with a twist as the seven fiendish puzzles have been specially designed for 11 to 18-year-olds. However we’re encouraging everyone to test their skills and see if they can complete the challenge.

Director’s Christmas card is traditionally sent to National Security colleagues and partners across the world who work alongside us every day to counter organized crime gangs, terror groups and hostile states looking to do the UK harm.


This year the card sets a not-so-secret mission through a set of puzzles which increase in difficulty as you move through the challenge. It’s a great way to challenge other members of your household over the festive period.

Director GCHQ Sir Jeremy Fleming, said:

"From Enigma to modern day encryption, GCHQ's history is full of talented people tackling the country’s most complex challenges. If we’re to help keep the country safe, problem-solving skills and teamwork are absolutely crucial."

"That’s why this year’s Christmas puzzles are aimed at young people. I am keen to encourage STEM skills, thinking differently, and help foster the next generation of talent."

"I want to show young people that thinking differently is a gift, and it is only with a mix of minds that they can solve seemingly impossible problems, just like we do at GCHQ."


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To support greater take up of STEM subjects, particularly among young girls, GCHQ has partnered with the organisation Stemettes on several activities over the last few years.

Supporting this year’s Christmas card challenge, CEO of Stemettes Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, said:

"No matter your age, STEM skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving are important skills to have. In my work across the Stemettes with partners like GCHQ, we want all kinds of people to have the chance to explore these skills, and for those that enjoy this type of challenge to get an opportunity to further themselves in these areas."

"GCHQ’s Christmas Challenge is a fun festive way to do this, and I’d encourage schools and those who work with children to explore this type of activity as another way to engage the next generation in some light-hearted STEM fun."


With the challenge being designed for schoolchildren Director GCHQ, Sir Jeremy Fleming has recorded a special good luck message for schools.

You can download the GCHQ Christmas Challenge below. If you enjoy it, take a look at the role problem-solving plays in our important work and take on some of our other puzzles.


Puzzles and Solutions to download:

The GCHQ Christmas Challenge 2021: Click here to download the GCHQ Christmas Challenge. (PDF)

The GCHQ Christmas Challenge for Schools: Click here to download an adapted version of the GCHQ Christmas Challenge for schools. (PDF)

The GCHQ Christmas Challenge Solution: Click here to download the solution to the GCHQ Christmas Challenge. (PDF)

For more science and technology stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by the GCHQ. Content may be edited for style and length.


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