In the weeks before Christmas, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) released a Christmas card featuring a puzzle. Since it was created by some of the United Kingdom’s top cryptographers, no one ever thought it was going to be easy.
However, it’s been well over a month since it was released and GCHQ has announced that there have been no winning answers yet. The clock is ticking, too, with the closing date for entries being 11:59 p.m. GMT on January 31, 2016.
The cryptographic challenge contains five parts, with each part leading you to the next stage. It’s estimated that 30,000 players – just 5 percent of all those who started it – have reached the fifth and final stage of the puzzle.
Another part of the fiendish fifth part. No, we don't get it either. GCHQ
You can play the game by clicking these links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. As you can see, part of the problem is the puzzles are so abstract, it’s hard to know what they're even asking. GHCQ has said the puzzle is not impossible, although admitted the challenge was set by top cryptographers, who have a pattern of thought very different to most people.
According to The Telegraph, the puzzle has been attempted by a 14-year-old maths prodigy, groups of retired professors, online message boards, and even specifically-written algorithms, all to no avail.
Robert Hannigan, Director of GCHQ, said in a statement: "With a few days to go no one has cracked it all yet, so my one and only clue is: it’s not as abstract as you think.
"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 look at problems from every angle."