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article imageGCHQ's 2015 Christmas card comes with a puzzling twist

By Karen Graham     Dec 10, 2015 in World
London - GCHQ Director Robert Hannigan's annual Christmas greeting this year doesn't have the usual reindeer or jingle bells bedecking the front. Instead, the card features a code-breaking challenge that is sure to get the grey matter working.
The head of Britain's Intelligence and Security Agency decided the cards being sent out by the GCHQ are too traditional and so 2014, so this year, the annual holiday greeting is featuring a cryptographic twist.
News, is reporting the GCHQ website reads: “To exercise the grey matter over the holiday period, Director GCHQ Robert Hannigan’s official Christmas card includes an elaborate cryptic challenge."
Amethyst risk/Twitter
Participants are challenged to fill out a grid-shading puzzle to reveal a hidden picture. The agency gives everyone a little head-start with some squares already shaded in, but don't think they will help you all that much. Filling in the squares to get the picture is just the first in a series of increasingly complex challenges.
Those who go so far as to complete all the challenges can submit their final answer to an email address revealed in the puzzle. See, they aren't making it easy, are they? The GCHQ will then choose one winner from all the correct puzzle entries submitted, and that person will receive a special prize. Participants have until January 31, 2016, to submit their entries.
So, how does this little devil of a puzzle thing work? Well, you first have to print out the puzzle. That's the easy part.
The website reads: “In this type of grid-shading puzzle, each square is either black or white. Some of the black squares have already been filled in for you.
Each row or column is labelled with a string of numbers. The numbers indicate the length of all consecutive runs of black squares and are displayed in the order that the runs appear in that line. For example, a label "2 1 6" indicates sets of two, one and six black squares, each of which will have at least one white square separating them.
Participants are asked to make a donation to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children if they have enjoyed the challenge, and even if you didn't enjoy it, the donation is for a very good cause.
More about GCHQ christmas card, cryptographic challenge, gridshading puzzle, intelligence and security agency, donation to the NSPCC
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