GCHQ Christmas puzzle: Solve brainteasers and check answers in full

The UK’s national spy agency GCHQ has released a tough new Christmas quiz – but only 40 percent of people are getting it right. Have a go here.

They are experts at espionage and subterfuge but now spooks at GCHQ have released their annual Christmas brainteaser – to test even the nation’s brainiest kids.

More than a thousand secondary schools signed up to the test, which assesses 11-18 year olds’ code-breaking skills.

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) challenge will have children scratching their heads as they test their mathematical and analytical skills in seven questions which get progressively harder.

Express.co.uk has reproduced the questions in this article. Each question in this article will be made clear by the caption underneath the pictures. Adults can even have a crack at the challenge.

READ MORE: Only the sharpest minds can spot the dog in this tricky festive brainteaser

Colin, a chief puzzler at the spy agency, said: “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”.

The first challenge shows four analogue clocks which are a code for a four-letter word, which can plausibly follow the word ‘Christmas’.

Once you have worked that one out, you should move onto the second, which is a funny little riddle. It reads: “What breaks but cannot fall, can leap but never crawl, can be seized but never gripped, often present, never skipped.”

Question three is all about splitting the following words into three groups, and finding the one word that links each group. The words are as follows: Declan, Beverley, Jasmine, Pudsey, Penny, Pitch, Scarborough, Sirius, and Sticky.

The fourth puzzle is an algebraic teaser: If MI X MI = MAA, TI+TI=RA, and DO-SO+TI-MI=RE. What does RExRE =?

Remember, you’re looking for a collection of letters that form a word that can come after ‘Christmas’.

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    The fifth question is all about figuring out the pattern. Which pairs of letters come next in each of the following sequences:

    TH, RD, ND, ??

    ET, EL, PM, ??

    WU, SQ, OM, ??

    WR, AP, PI, ??

    The next question is even harder. Looking at the image captioned Question 6 with four bars of music on – which is secretly concealing a word. Using 1s and 0s as well as the numbers 16,8,4,2,1 – can you discover the hidden word?

    The final test is nigh on impossible. It is a message you need to decode to find out the secret four-letter word:

    Agklq ldhum qom ndem

    Gembqgax c 4-hmqqmk vdke

    Hddp mumkxvomkm

    Ycxim gg’l umkx diugdsl

    If you’d like to print out the original worksheet for children to try, then click on the link here or search for GCHQ Christmas Challenge 2023. You can even have a go at previous years’ challenges too.

    For those who think they have cracked it, here are the answers.

    1. Time

    2. Day,

    3. Pudding

    4. Tree

    5. Stocking

    6. Carol

    7. Film

    Each puzzle can then be linked to an image on the front of the card using the icon behind the number. For each answer to the final puzzle take the letter indicated by the number from each puzzle answer.

    This then forms the phrase ‘Yuletide Felicitations’.

    For those looking for more brainteaser action, GCHQ has also released a bonus puzzle this year which aims to reflect its new director Anne Keast-Butler’s love of maths.

    She 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.”

    The answers to the bonus puzzle are below.

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