GCHQ release puzzle book filled with 'world's hardest brain teasers' for Christmas

Puzzle addicts around the world prepare to take on very tricky challenge

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The Independent Online

GCHQ has released a new charity quiz book compiled by government code-breakers, which staff insist is even more difficult than the the so-called ‘world’s hardest puzzle' released by the agency last year.

The book’s authors have said it will take “months” for someone working on their own to work through the puzzles successfully, and must be completed in stages in order to progress through a series of clues.

Over 600,000 people from around the world submitted entries to last year's puzzle, released in time for Christmas by agency director Richard Hannigan.

Three people reportedly came closest to cracking the codes set down by the 2015 challenge, and received a special paperweight and a signed copy of the Alan Turing biography 'Decoded' as prizes for their efforts.

Irish-born David MacBryan, 41, who now lives in Edinburgh, Wim Hulpia, 40, from Belgium, and American Kelley Kirklin, 54, made it to the final round of challenges but were not quite able to finish the task.

One of the puzzle-making team, who wished to remain anonymous, told BBC News: "I don't think there's any coincidence that you find a bunch of people setting these sorts of problems who are also working on the kind of problems GCHQ works on.

"We are faced with problems where there is incomplete information, there is ambiguous information, you have to decide whether you have pushed an angle far enough… that's the sort of thing we expect people to do with these sort of questions."

This year’s book features a forward from Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, whose grandmother served at the code-breaking centre Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Profits from the sale of The GCHQ Puzzle Book will go to Heads Together, a mental health charity campaign set up by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry in April this year.

The book also includes a new competition. The first stage involves an intricate sudoku puzzle and a ‘famous faces’ style guessing game - with the remainder of the challenges available to those who purchase the book, on sale from Thursday

Last year’s puzzles generated plenty of discussion across the internet, as challengers swapped clues and ideas on online forums while searching for answers.

The prize for this year’s quiz is yet to be announced, and the closing date for formal entries is February 28.


Now try your luck with three puzzles from the book - answers below


Identify the following:



The answers to these questions come in pairs where each pair differs only in their first letter. Work out the pairs. The pronunciation may not always be the same.

1. One half of a titular TV sitcom couple.

2. British budget clothing and homeware retailer.

3. Type of hat.

4. One of the Channel Islands.

5. River that passes through northern English city.

6. TV space alien.

7. Capital of country with a coastline on the Persian Gulf.

8. Surname of an England football captain.

9. An Irish county.

10. An English city that is a county town.

11. One of the official languages of the fourth largest country in Europe.

12. District of South East London.


My first is in Finland but not in Finnish

My second is in Estonia but not in Estonian

My third is in Albania but not in Albanian

My fourth is in Sweden but not in Swedish

My fifth is in Germany but not in German

My sixth is in Iceland but not in Icelandic

My last is in Wales but not in Welsh

My whole is in England but not in English

Where am I?



The answers


They are the first letters of Monopoly squares:

Go, Old Kent Road, Community Chest, Whitechapel Road, Income Tax, King’s Cross station, The Angel Islington, Chance, Euston Road, Pentonville Road, In Jail/Just Visiting, Pall Mall, Electric Company, Whitehall, Northumberland Avenue, Marylebone station, Bow Street, Community Chest, Marlborough Street, Vine Street, Free Parking, Strand, Chance, Fleet Street, Trafalgar Square, Fenchurch Street station, Leicester Square, Coventry Street, Water Works, Piccadilly, Go To Jail, Regent Street, Oxford Street, Community Chest, Bond Street, Liverpool Street station, Chance, Park Lane, Super Tax, Mayfair.


The pairs are:

1. Terry   9. Kerry

2. Matalan   11. Catalan

3. Panama   7. Manama

4. Jersey   5. Mersey

6. Mork   10. York

8. Beckham   12. Peckham

We hope you weren’t put off by any of: (John) Terry/Kerry, (County) Cork/York, Nottingham/Mottingham or Lune/June!


Londres. Each line refers to a letter which appears in a country’s name in English, but not in the native language.

My first is in Finland but not in Suomi: L

My second is in Estonia but not in Eesti: O

My third is in Albania but not in Shqipëria: N

My fourth is in Sweden but not in Sverige: D

My fifth is in Germany but not in Deutschland: R

My sixth is in Iceland but not in Island: E

My last is in Wales but not in Cymru: S

My whole is in England but not in English: LONDRES