GCHQ spy chiefs reveal their annual fiendish Christmas quiz

GCHQ spy chiefs reveal their annual fiendish Christmas quiz

Double O HEAVEN! As GCHQ spy chiefs reveal their annual fiendish Christmas quiz, here are some more brain-teasers from Britain’s real-life codecrackers for James Bond wannabes to enjoy

  • Sir Jeremy Fleming, GCHQ leader, releases ‘seemingly impossible’ puzzles
  • Here are some more brain-teasers from Britain’s real-life codecrackers
  • Test yourself and see if YOU have got what it takes to be a spy at GCHQ… 

Solving puzzles for a living doesn’t sound too hard a job. The ‘spooks’ at GCHQ in Cheltenham, one of the UK’s most secretive organisations, keep our country safe by cracking the most fiendish of codes. 

Sir Jeremy Fleming, the spy chief who leads GCHQ, has released numerous cryptic challenges to test the nation’s brain power.

Many of them have been designed for schoolchildren to solve, but adults may find it tricky to reach an answer for some of them.

The brainteasers are based on the key skills needed to work within the intelligence agency, features code-breaking, engineering, languages, analysis, maths, coding and cyber security.

Now that GCHQ has released its annual Christmas Teaser, here MailOnline presents some of its previous brain-twisting conundrums for you to get your teeth into, with the answers at the bottom of the page.

Test yourself and see if YOU have got what it takes to be a spy… 

GCHQ’s 2022 Christmas puzzles

Sir Jeremy Fleming, the spy chief who leads GCHQ, has set out a seven-step puzzle to be solved in time for the 25th

GCHQ’s 2021 Christmas puzzles

These puzzles are designed to test maths and science whiz kids, as well as the next generation of aspiring young spies… but can you solve them?

Colour in the fruit bowl 

Can you colour in the above fruitbowl using only four colours, so that the pear is green, the orange is orange, the apple is red, the banana is yellow, and no two touching shapes have the same colour?

Cryptic puzzles 

1. The early bird

What connects Skipper, Mumble, Wheezy, Pinga, Tux and Feathers McGraw?

CLUE: Think of the publisher.

2. Jane’s Novelty Decorations

Last night Jane was decorating an unusual birthday cake. Her ingredients were 3oz marzipan, 6 juniper berries, 5oz mayonnaise — and 4 of what sort of fruit?

CLUE: Begin by using a calendar.

Michael Caine starred in this memorable movie 

3. Bravo for the movies!

Complete the following:

a) The Grand Budapest _____

b) A Passage To ______

c) The Treasure Of The ____ Madre

d) ______/Victoria

e) ______ Doodle Dandy

f) ______

a-e did. f didn’t. What?

CLUE: It’s as easy as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie

4. Divide into pairs

Pair the following:

AN, BLACK, EX, LIVER, NEW, NOR, OX, PORTS, SOU, TOR, WAT, WEN

CLUE: Try using a map.

5. What the . . ?

Which is the odd one out?

Bleak, Great, Hard, Little, Twist

CLUE: It was the best of puzzles, it was the worst of puzzles.

6. A gimme

Does your mother know why:

Ring + Money = I Do?

CLUE: Mamma Mia. Here we go again.

Agnetha Faltskog, pictured, on stage during the 1970s with her Eurovision-winning band

7. Three’s a crowd

Arrange into pairs:

BLIND, CIRCUS, DAY, EVENT, FRENCH, HENS, ISLAND, LEGGED, LINE, MICE, MILE, MONKEYS, POINT, RACE, RING, TURN, WHIP, WISE

CLUE: Actually two’s company — three’s a red herring.

8. Tickets

If a train ticket from Wigan to Ripon costs £1, a ticket from St Ives to Tiverton costs £4 and a ticket from Hove to Sevenoaks costs £5 then how much is a ticket from Poole to Aylesbury — and why might going by road seem more appropriate?

CLUE: It looks like the Romans have left something in all these towns.

9. Mssng vwls

Divide the following items into 7 sets of 7:

BL CLSSS CNDL

FRC FRDY FRTN

FRTYNN FRTYTW GRN

GLTTNY GRD GRDNS

KLGRM KLVN LGHTHS

LST ML MNDY

MPR MSLM MTR

NDG NRTHMRC NTRCTC

NVY PRD PYRMD

RD RNG RP

S SCND SLTH

SNDY STHMRC STRDY

STRL STT SVN

THRSDY THRTYFV TMPL

TSDY TWNTYGHT TWNTYN

VLT WDNSDY WRTH

YLLW

CLUE: You could sing a rainbow to find one of the groups.

10. The pick of the litter

What connects:

A capital city in Oceania?

A European country bordering Turkey?

A river flowing through Colombia and Venezuela?

A Channel Island whose capital is St Anne?

CLUE: Underground, overground.

11. Some sums

a) If R + B = P and R + Y = O, then B + Y =?

b) If R + B = M and B + G = C, then R + B + G =?

c) If Y + Y = B, Y + G = B, R + P = B and G + B = B, then R + R =?

CLUE: Try colouring in the letters.

12. Odd one out

What word or phrase is the odd one out in each group?

a) Disappear, Grapple, Peace, Pondicherry, Sublime

b) Crewe, Hootenanny, Kitchen, Nightmare, Tomato

c) Firenze, Gilead, Jargon, Marigold, Pumpernickel

d) Catwoman, Deus ex machina, Parishioner, Pyromania, Scuba

CLUE: It is the beginning of the end.

13. Superman

If I shrivel up in Trowbridge and find connections in Lincoln, idiots in Reading and smart young men in Aylesbury, where might I sleep?

CLUE: You can ‘county’ on us for a clue!

14. Doors

Divide the following words into two sets:

AB, COP, FANCY, FLUX, HIDE, KING, RAG, VEST, WARD, WIPE

CLUE: Think about the ins and outs of the puzzle.

15. What’s the answer?

a) What is the first letter of the Greek alphabet?

b) What sort of rain did Guns N’ Roses sing about?

c) What Spanish word means a range of mountains?

d) What are Ardbeg, Glenfiddich and Talisker?

e) Which nymph faded away until all that was left was her voice?

f) Which Shakespeare character completes this answer?

CLUE: It’s still as easy as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie.

16. Sequence

What word could follow:

SQUABBLE, ANECDOTE, WAVEFORM, TOUGHEST, DEMIJOHN, RECKLESS?

CLUE: It’s not the beginning or the end.

17. Chickens in the gallery

The dog’s in the canal, the cat’s on the fell and the sheep is over there. Is the pig in the cellar, the larder or on the porch?

CLUE: Don’t wh-ine, it’ll be f-ine.

Taken from THE GCHQ PUZZLE BOOK II, published this week by Penguin at £12.99 © Crown 2018.

Family-friendly brainteasers

1. The odd one out

Catwoman, Deus Ex Machina, Parishioner, Pyromnia, Scuba

2. What comes next in the sequence?

7, 8, 5, 5, 3, 4, 4, ?

3. What completes the list?

Sore, Keel, Cosh mark

The answers 

GCHQ’s 2022 Christmas puzzles 

Answer: Will be revealed on Thursday, December 15.

GCHQ’s 2021 Christmas puzzles

Answer:

Results time! How well did you fare taking this puzzle designed for the next generation of the world’s movers and shakers?

Colour in the fruit bowl

Answer: 

According to GCHQ, the fruit bowl puzzle had to be coloured using just four colours so that the pear is green, the orange is orange, the apple red and the banana yellow.

The GCHQ fruit bowl puzzle was designed to illustrate the four-colour theorem developed in 1852 by Francis Guthrie, who noticed that no more than four colours are needed to fill in any map, so no two adjacent regions are the same colour

Cryptic puzzles

Answers: 

1. They’re all fictional penguins, from Madagascar, Happy Feet, Toy Story 2, Pingu, Linux and The Wrong Trousers.

2. Apricot. The ingredients start with abbreviations for months corresponding to the associated number: MARzipan, APRicots, MAYonnaise, JUNiper berries.

3. The answers are all letters from the Nato phonetic alphabet, and given in alphabetical order:

a) The Grand Budapest Hotel

b) A Passage To India

c) The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre

d) Victor/Victoria

e) Yankee Doodle Dandy

f) Zulu

a-e all won Oscars.

4. These are UK towns with the endings missing. The words are paired if they share the same missing part: (AN, WEN)DOVER, (OX, WAT)FORD, (EX, PORTS)MOUTH, (BLACK, LIVER)POOL, (NEW, TOR)QUAY, (NOR, SOU)THAMPTON.

5. Twist. This is the second word in the title of a Dickens novel. The others are first words: Bleak House, Great Expectations, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist.

6. Repeated words in ABBA song titles: Ring Ring (2) + Money Money Money (3) = I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do (5).

7. The words form pairs that can be preceded by THREE:

THREE BLIND MICE; THREE DAY EVENT; THREE FRENCH HENS; THREE LEGGED RACE; THREE LINE WHIP; THREE MILE ISLAND; THREE POINT TURN; THREE RING CIRCUS; THREE WISE MONKEYS

8. £50. The cost is derived from the Roman numerals that appear in the names of the towns:

£1: wIgan — rIpon

£4: st Ives — tIVerton

£5: hoVe — seVenoaks

£50: pooLe — ayLesbury

The last remark refers to Roman roads.

9. Seven Deadly Sins: Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth, Wrath.

Colours of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

Ancient Wonders: Colossus, Gardens, Lighthouse, Mausoleum, Pyramid, Statue, Temple.

Multiples of seven: Seven, Fourteen, Twenty-one, Twenty-eight, Thirty-five, Forty-two, Forty-nine.

SI Units: Ampere, Candela, Kelvin, Kilogram, Metre, Mole, Second.

Days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Continents: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America, South America.

10. The Wombles: Wellington, Bulgaria, Orinoco, Alderney.

11. a) G — red mixed with blue makes purple; red mixed with yellow makes orange; blue mixed with yellow makes green.

b) W — red light mixed with blue light makes magenta; blue light mixed with green light makes cyan; red light mixed with blue light and green light makes white.

c) Y — In snooker: yellow + yellow = brown; yellow + green = blue; red + pink = black; green + brown = black; red + red = yellow.

12. a) Peace. It starts with a vegetable; the others end in fruit: disapPEAR, grAPPLE, PEAce, pondiCHERRY, subLIME.

b) Tomato. It starts with a male animal; the others end in female animals: crEWE, hooteNANNY, kitcHEN, nightMARE, TOMato.

c) Firenze. It starts with a classical element; the others end in modern elements: FIREnze, giLEAD, jARGON, mariGOLD, pumperNICKEL.

d) Parishioner. It starts with a capital city; the others end in a country: catwOMAN, deus ex maCHINA, PARIShioner, pyROMANIA, sCUBA.

13. Bedford. Clues refer to abbreviations of the counties for which the town is the county town. Trowbridge is in Wilts, Lincoln is in Lincs, Reading is in Berks, Aylesbury is in Bucks and Bedford is in Beds.

14. The words can be preceded by IN or succeeded by OUT: inFANCY, inFLUX, inKING, inVEST, inWARD, ABout, COPout, HIDEout, RAGout, WIPEout.

15. The answers spell out ANSWER in Nato phonetics:

a) Alpha

b) November

c) Sierra

d) Whiskey

e) Echo

f) Romeo

16. E.g. CHIMNEYS, FIRMNESS or CALMNESS. The sequence is formed of eight-letter words, containing AB, CD, EF, GH, IJ, KL and finally MN as the two middle letters.

17. The pig is in the PORCh. The dog is CANine, so is in the CANal. The cat is FELine, so is on the FELl. The sheep is Ovine, so is Over there. The pig is PORCine, so is in the PORch. 

Family-friendly brainteasers 

Answers: 

1. Parishioner. It starts with a capital city, the others end in a country

catwOMAN, desu ex maCHINA, PARIShioner, pyROMANIA, sCUBA

2. 6. The sequence is the number of letters in the names of months. August has six letters.

3. The List. The words are anagrams of Rose, Leek, Shamrock and Thistle, which are symbols of the parts of the UK. The List is an anagram of Thistle. 

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