Every year, the director of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, which you may have heard referred to in numerous films like James Bond and TV shows like Spooks as GCHQ, sends out a Christmas greeting.
This year, however, the director, Robert Hannigan, decided to test the grey matter of his card recipients with a brain bending puzzle.
Printed on the card is a grid-shading puzzle and instructions on how it should be completed. By solving this first puzzle players will create an image that leads to a series of increasingly complex challenges.
Anyone who can get through the puzzle doesn’t instantly become a spy, but they are invited to post their answer in to GCHQ. It is also suggested that, if they enjoy the puzzle, they can make a donation to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, if they have enjoyed the puzzle.
The instructions are sparse, but here goes:
“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.
Complete the grid carefully with a black pen and check your answer is complete and correct before proceeding.”
The Guardian describes this puzzle as “infuriating”, while the Canberra Times says it is the “best puzzle ever”.