Sunday, February 7, 2016

Spy Stuff: The Answers To GCHQ's Director's Puzzle

From the Intelligence phreaks* at GCHQ:

Director GCHQ's Christmas card puzzle - how did you do?
News article - 4 Feb 2016
Well over half a million people tried solving Director GCHQ Robert Hannigan’s Christmas puzzle, but no one managed to get all the possible answers correct.

Three members of the public came the closest; rising above the 30,000+ others who reached the final stage and came within a whisker of providing all the possible correct answers.

They will be rewarded with a GCHQ paperweight and a copy of the recent biography of Bletchley Park codebreaker Alan Turing, signed with a personal message from Director, as well as major bragging rights!
Two 41-year-old men, one from Scotland and the other from Belgium were among the three winners.
The fiendishly challenging puzzle demanded a mix of mathematical, linguistic and problem-solving skills that gripped social media and technology forums when the first stage was launched early in December.
Since then, more than 600,000 people successfully attempted the first stage - a QR code - which led them to questions testing their analytical prowess and knowledge of phonetics, semaphore, French, snooker, The Lord of the Rings, plus much much more!

As Robert Hannigan said: "What I hope the stages of the puzzle show is that to deliver our mission and keep Britain safe, we need people from all backgrounds, with all skills, who approach problem-solving from every possible angle".

The answers (PDF, 1.26MB) are now available for you to check how many you managed to work out. It also includes explanations from the puzzle-setters that should hopefully make things a little clearer ... or not.
Alongside the teasing puzzle, Director encouraged participants to donate to his chosen charity, the NSPCC.
Thank you to everyone who took part; we hope you enjoyed the challenge!
*From the Urban Dictionary:
Phreak (or phreaking/phreaker) is a term used to describe the early hackers in the late 70's-early 90's who manipulated the tone-based telephone switching systems to conduct unauthorized activity within that system. Although these "phreakers" rarely had malicious intent, their curiosity often got them arrested and heavily punished. 
Cap'n crunch is the best known phreaker of all time because he discovered the effect of the 2600Hz tone.
Okay Spy Guys and Spy Gals: Did Anyone Crack the GCHQ Puzzle?
Where in the World Is Izabella Kaminska and Can We Find Her Before the NSA and GCHQ Do So?