To give you a small competitive edge, SPYSCAPE has GCHQ’s puzzle tips below and a few hints.
Britain’s codebreakers at the Government Communications HQ design a mind-bending holiday puzzle every year to taunt the best and brightest cryptographers.
The 2021 cryptic challenge has a twist, however. It’s aimed at 11- to 18-year olds although the challenge is for all. There are seven puzzles increasing in difficulty and the seven answers combined will uncover a hidden festive message.
“No single one of you will have all the answers,” GCHQ Director Jeremy Fleming said. “You’ll each have different strengths and ways of seeing things, and you’ll have to work together - to use your mix of minds - to find the solution.”
GCHQ dropped a clue to solve the 2021 challenge saying the card “sets a not-so-secret mission”. The answer will be revealed in the weeks after the holiday season on GCHQ’s website &Twitter account.
Solve GCHQ’s 2021 Puzzle for 11 to 18-year-olds
GCHQ Hints for Solving Puzzles:
Recognizing the type of puzzle you’re looking at will help you determine how best to solve it.
Cryptic crossword clues - A cryptic clue leads to its answer as long as it is read in the right way. What the clue appears to say when read normally is a distraction and usually has nothing to do with the answer. The challenge is to find the way of reading the clue that leads to the solution.
HINT: Look out for indicators that an anagram is included. Or perhaps there are hidden codes within the words. Could the letters be substituted for numbers? For example, ‘A’ could equal 1, ‘B’ could equal 2, and so on. Or it could be more complex - letters could be represented by their subsequent Scrabble score, or their corresponding atomic number in the periodic table.
Rebus - A rebus is the combination of letters, words and pictures to produce a word or phrase. For example, the below shows the word ‘SECRET’ repeated a number of times:
ANSWER: The TOP word is highlighted. The solution is therefore TOP SECRET.
Sayings/Phrases - Think about how the words in a puzzle might be used in other common sayings phrases. Maybe they have alternate meanings, or opposites? Or perhaps they share a common property with other words and can precede or follow the same word. For example, in this brainteaser the words can be divided into two sets:ALLEY, BOB, BULL, HANG, HOT, POLE, THUNDER, WATCH
ANSWER: While the words may seem somewhat random and not linked, they can all precede one of two words:
ALLEY, BOB, POLE and THUNDER all precede CAT
BULL, HANG, HOT and WATCH all precede DOG