The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Britain’s intelligence and security organisation, has sent a seven-part quiz to secondary school students in its annual Christmas card to spark interest in its usually top-secret operations .
The challenge is aimed at teens interested in science and technology for future recruitment and asks participants to work as a team.
Of the seven puzzles, six have one-word answers that must be put together into a three-word sentence using the what3words mobile app in order to reveal an address.
What3words maps the world as a giant grid of three-meter squares and assigns each location a combination of three everyday words, making it easy for people to identify a specific place.
The Christmas tree on the front of the card offers a clue as to how the words should be arranged.
The final puzzle has a three-word answer that can again be turned into a location using the same app.
The ultimate solution can be found by taking a single word from each of the locations, to produce a seasonal message.
“From destroying Enigma to harnessing the latest cutting-edge technology, our brilliant people have worked together throughout our history to help keep the country safe,” said GCHQ chief Sir Jeremy Fleming.
“This year’s GCHQ Christmas Card Challenge provides insight into the skills we need every day as part of our mission – from languages to coding.
“But skill alone won’t be enough to crack this one. Puzzles must combine a mix of minds to solve what seems impossible.
Explaining why it publishes regular quizzes, GCHQ states on its website: “In order to keep up with the ever-changing environment in which we work and live, and to protect it effectively, we need to have the right mix of minds addressing every problem that comes our way using the best possible methods.
“This does not happen by chance. We must constantly adapt and innovate. Through designing, creating and solving puzzles, our teams are able to constantly develop their skills to think differently and discover new and inventive ways to approach problems.
“While this does not mean that GCHQ staff spend their time putting together puzzles and completing crossword puzzles, it does ensure that we attract colleagues who enjoy spending their time creating and solving puzzles. It’s a great way to hone your creative thinking skills while having fun, and it helps us stay on top of what we do best.
Schools interested in participating can find a resource pack on the GCHQ website.