# Tackling the GCHQ 2021 Christmas Card!

Every year, one of the puzzliest challenges many solvers will encounter all year descends upon the world, as the GCHQ issue their Christmas card.

The GCHQ — or Government Communications Headquarters — provides security and intelligence services for the British government. Back when they were known as GC&CS — Government Code and Cypher School — they were responsible for funding Bletchley Park and its successes cracking the German “Enigma” code during World War II.

This year’s Christmas card was directed toward solvers with a secondary school education (essentially solvers age 11 and up), and was less complicated than offerings in previous years, but still offered an engaging challenge.

Here’s the link in case you’d like to try it for yourself.

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Last chance before we walk through the solution!

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Okay, ready? Good! Let’s do this!

Clue number one is an easy one, as you simply read the first letter of each word in the message. Your solution is CHRISTMAS.

Clue number two is a simple 4×4 across-and-down grid where 1-Across and 1-Down are the same word, 2-Across and 2-Down are the same word, and so on. The completed grid reads:

T H I S
H O O T
I O W A
S T A G

And the letters in THIS are highlighted in the grid, so the solution is THIS.

Clue number three is a complete-the-sequence puzzle where the names of the Hogwarts houses from Harry Potter are listed, but each house in the sequence has more letters missing from the beginning and end of the word. Slytherin is the missing house, and with three letters missing from the beginning and end of the word, your solution is THE.

Clue number four is a Blackout! or Minesweeper-style puzzle where you deduce the location of bombs in the grid according to numbers in the neighboring squares. Once you’re marked off each of the bombs, the remaining spaces form letters and spell out a word. Your solution is SAFE.

Clue number five is a mnemonic device, and solvers must puzzle out what chain of related words is represented by the device. In this case, the major taxonomic ranks that are used to organize related living things are represented, and the word Kindly points toward the second word in the taxonomic ranks, so your solution is Kingdom.

Clue number six has three overlapping circles, each with letters inside, and you have to figure out not only what the words are, but what missing six-letter word would sit in the middle of this Venn diagram.

I found this to be the hardest puzzle in the card by far, as I tried and failed in numerous attempts to anagram the letters into recognizable words. Finally, I decoded the shortest word — LEEDS — only because I remembered that this is a British organization and I have friends who live in Leeds.

Leeds led me to unraveling the other two answers — MANCHESTER and NEWCASTLE — and my meager knowledge of European football provided the missing six-letter word. The solution is UNITED.

Clue number seven is a simple cryptogram, and is quickly decoded to read “This is the 7th question: people born between nineteen forty-six and nineteen sixty-four are commonly known as baby what?”

The solution appears to be BOOMERS, but there is an additional instruction to follow after decoding the message, and you must encode the answer. Following the same letter-substitution rule, BOOMERS becomes KEEPING, and that is your solution.

Now each word must be placed in order on the tree for your message to properly read out.

• The word BABY in clue 7 points toward the stroller icon, so our message begins with KEEPING.
• The lightning bolt icon refers to Harry Potter, so the word THE from clue 3 goes next.
• The soccer ball icon points to clue 6, so the word UNITED continues the message.
• The word KINGDOM from clue 5 aligns with the crown icon, so that’s our fourth word.
• The lock icon is most closely associated with SAFE from clue 4, so that’s next.
• At first, I thought the image of the Stag was a Harry Potter reference, but I then realized that STAG was one of the answers in clue 2’s grid, so this was the place for THIS.
• Finally, the present is the perfect spot for clue 1’s solution, CHRISTMAS.

And the message is revealed, celebrating the mission of the GCHQ itself: Keeping the United Kingdom Safe This Christmas.

Did you unravel this festive puzzly challenge, fellow PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

Treat yourself to some delightful deals on puzzles. You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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# Solution to the Smith-Jones-Robinson Problem!

[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

A week ago, we shared a brain teaser sent in by a PuzzleNationer named Brian, who challenged us to solve the following challenge.

Today, we’re going to share not only the solution, but how we got there! Please enjoy this brief solve and tutorial, inspired by one of your fellow PuzzleNationers!

The Smith-Jones-Robinson Problem

Every fact is important. The puzzle is as follows:

On a train, three men named Smith, Jones, and Robinson are the fireman, brakeman, and engineer, but not necessarily in that order. Also on the train are three businessmen who have the same names as the train crew. They will be referred to as Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, and Mr. Robinson.

• Mr. Robinson lives in Detroit.
• The brakeman lives exactly halfway between Chicago and Detroit.
• Mr. Jones earns exactly \$20,000 per year, paid in thousand-dollar bills.
• The brakeman’s nearest neighbor, one of the passengers, earns exactly three times as much as the brakeman, and is also paid in thousand-dollar bills.
• Smith beats the fireman at billiards.
• The passenger whose name is the same as the brakeman’s lives in Chicago.

From the information listed above, can you figure out the name of the engineer?

We’re given one exact number, so let’s start there.

The brakeman’s nearest neighbor, one of the passengers, earns exactly three times as much as the brakeman. Mr. Jones earns exactly \$20,000 per year, which cannot be divided evenly by three (in thousand dollar bills), so Mr. Jones is NOT the brakeman’s nearest neighbor.

The brakeman lives exactly halfway between Chicago and Detroit, and Mr. Robinson lives in Detroit, so Mr. Robinson cannot be the passenger who lives nearest to the brakeman. And as we just determined, Mr. Jones is also not the brakeman’s nearest neighbor. That leaves Mr. Smith as the brakeman’s nearest neighbor.

This tells us about the passengers, but how does it help us with the train crew?

Well, the passenger whose name is the same as the brakeman’s lives in Chicago. And neither Mr. Robinson nor Mr. Smith (who is nearest to the brakeman) can live in Chicago. That tells us Mr. Jones lives in Chicago.

This means that the brakeman’s name is Jones.

We can finally turn our attention to the train crew now.

Now that we know the brakeman’s name is Jones, that leaves only Smith and Robinson as possibilities. And we know that Smith beats the fireman at billiards. Smith can’t be the fireman or the brakeman, so Smith must be the engineer.

Did you identify the engineer and outwit the Smith-Jones-Robinson Problem? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

Hey, have you checked out our special summer deals yet? You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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# Solutions to Our June Brain Teasers!

Two weeks ago, we shared a pair of brain teasers sent in by a PuzzleNationer who discovered these particular deduction and math thinkers in a book of riddles and puzzles.

Today, we’re going to share not only the solutions, but how we got there! Please enjoy this brief solve and tutorial, courtesy of brain teasers from your fellow PuzzleNationers!

[Image courtesy of SharpBrains.com.]

Brain Teaser #1: There is a three-digit number. All three digits are different. The second digit is four times as big as the third digit, while the first digit is three less than the second digit. What is the number?

Solution: 582

This is a fairly simple one, but if you’re unfamiliar with brain teasers, or uncomfortable in general with number puzzles, it can be off-putting. No worries, though! We’ve got you covered.

We know the second digit is four times as big as the third. That leaves only two options for those digits: 4 and 1 or 8 and 2.

If the first digit is three less than the second digit, it can’t be 4 and 1, because that would be 4 minus 1, or 1 for the first digit, and the first and third digits can’t be the same.

That means it’s 8 and 2 for the second and third digits. So if the first digit is three less than the second, the first digit is 5, and the three-digit number is 582.

Brain Teaser #2: When asked about his birthday, a man said, “The day before yesterday, I was only 25, and next year I will turn 28.” This is true only one day in a year – what day was he born?

Solution: He was born on December 31st and spoke about it on January 1st.

The wording in this one is especially important, because at first glance, this sounds impossible.

“Next year, I will turn 28.”

But if you look at the key word in what the man says — “turn” — the puzzle starts to unravel.

If next year, he will turn 28, this means that, at some point this year, he will turn 27. Which means he is currently 26.

Let’s look at what we know:

• Day before yesterday: 25
• Currently: 26
• This year (at some point): 27
• Next year: 28

Since he’ll be both 26 and 27 this year, the day before yesterday had to be last year.

Which means that yesterday was his birthday.

But at some point this year, he turns 27. That means both yesterday and the day before yesterday had to be last year.

Which leaves us with this timetable:

• December 30 (day before yesterday, last year): 25
• December 31 (yesterday, last year, his birthday): 26
• January 1 (today, this year): 26
• December 31 (later this year): 27
• December 31 (next year): 28

He was born on December 31st and spoke about it on January 1st.

Did you unravel one or both of these brain teasers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

Hey, have you checked out our special summer deals yet? You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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# Answers to our International Tabletop Day Puzzle (Plus a Special Offer!)

Before we start with today’s blog post, we’ve got a special offer for you from the puzzly folks at ThinkFun!

Have you checked out our reviews of their new unsolved crime series of puzzle games? In Cold Case, you’re tasked with going through the evidence and solving the case!

There are two editions of Cold Case; A Story to Die For is available for preorder now, and A Pinch of Murder will be available for preorder on June 14th!

And if you click this link and use the promo code 20COLDCASE, you’ll get the puzzle game for 20% off!

Enjoy!

Last week, we celebrated International Tabletop Day with some puzzly recommendations, suggestions, and an anagram mix-and-match puzzle, all in the spirit of celebrating gathering with friends and loved ones — in person or virtually — to play games together.

The challenge was to unscramble the names of famous board game characters from the entries on the left, and then match them up with the correct board game from the list on the right.

We’re sure you managed to unravel all those jumbled phrases, but just in case, let’s take a look at the solution.

First, let’s look at the anagrams.

• Resist Clams = Miss Scarlet
• Screenplay Bunching = Rich Uncle Pennybags
• Niceness Fir Sport = Princess Frostine
• I, Hyphen Pro = Henry Hippo
• Air Ma = Maria
• AI Zag Rug = Gigazaur
• Cam Sat Ivy = Cavity Sam
• Be Brother = The Robber

And now, for a splash of color, here is the solution for the matching portion of the puzzle.

How did you do with the puzzle? Did you enjoy International Tabletop Day? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

Have you checked out our special summer deals yet? You can find them on the Home Screen for Daily POP Crosswords and Daily POP Word Search! Check them out!

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# Answers to our Double Feature Movie Title Opposites Game!

Last Friday, we closed out the week with a movie title game for you. We paired off film titles that were opposites, and offered a few clues for each pairing.

With only the genre of each film, the year of release for each, and one star from each film, could you puzzle out each double feature?

We posted fifteen pairings for you to figure out! Let’s go to the movies and see the results!

#1
-Comedy, Romcom
-1985, 1995
(Bonus hint: Tim Curry, Alicia Silverstone)

#2
-Action/Crime, Drama/Crime
-1995, 1990
-Will Smith, Robert DeNiro
(Bonus hint: Martin Lawrence, Joe Pesci)

#3
-Holiday/Musical, Horror
-1954, 1974
-Rosemary Clooney, Margot Kidder
(Bonus hint: Bing Crosby, Olivia Hussey)

#4
-Western, Fantasy/Romance
-1952, 2008
-Gary Cooper, Kristen Stewart

#5
-Comedy, Comedy
-1985, 1994
-Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey

#6
-Drama/Musical, Action
-1980, 2021
-Irene Cara, Bob Odenkirk

#7
-Comedy/Drama, Drama
-2006, 1988
-Steve Carell, Tom Cruise
(Bonus hint: Abigail Breslin, Dustin Hoffman)

#8
-1990, 2001
-Macauley Culkin, Hayao Miyazaki

#9
-Romcom, Sci-Fi/Action
-1986, 2014
-Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise

#10
-Drama/Biographical, Action
-1993, 1988
-Ethan Hawke, Bruce Willis

#11
-Sci-Fi/Comedy, Comedy(?)
-1997, 2004
-Tommy Lee Jones, Marlon Wayans

#12
-Horror, Romance
-1987, 1995
-Bill Paxton, Ethan Hawke

#13
-Comedy, Horror
-1989, 2018
-John Travolta, Emily Blunt

#14
-Action/Crime, Horror
-1973, 2017
-Bruce Lee, Daniel Kaluuya

#15
-Drama, Sci-Fi/Comedy
-1994, 1993
-Winona Ryder, Daryl Hannah

How many did you figure out, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.

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# Solutions to Last Week’s Detective Riddles!

Last week, we delved into a curious cousin of brain teaser family — detective riddles. These crime-fueled and investigation-filled little logic problems often cast you as the detective, the accused, or simply someone putting on their deerstalker hat and endeavoring to suss out the actual truth.

And we couldn’t resist putting your puzzle skills to the test with a few detective riddles. Did you unravel them easily or find yourself stumped?

Let’s find out, shall we?

#1

A Japanese ship was leaving the port and on its way to open sea. The captain went to oil some parts of the ship and took his ring off so it wouldn’t get damaged. He left it on the table next to his bunk. When he returned, it was missing. He suspected three crew members could be guilty and asked them what they had been doing for the ten minutes that he had been gone.

The cook said, “I was in the kitchen preparing tonight’s dinner.”

The engineer said, “I was working in the engine room making sure everything was running smoothly.”

The seaman said, “I was on the mast correcting the flag because someone had attached it upside down by mistake.”

The captain immediately knew who it was. How?

Answer: The seaman was to blame.

The key to this one is paying attention to the ship and the flag. A Japanese ship would be flying the Japanese flag, and it’s hard to believe a white field with a red circle in the center could be hung “upside down.”

#2

A chemist was murdered in his own lab. The only evidence was a piece of paper that had the names of chemical substances written on it. The substances were nickel, carbon, oxygen, lanthanum, and sulfur. The chemist only had four people come by his lab on the day of the murder: fellow scientist Claire, his nephew Nicolas, his wife, and his friend Marc.

The police arrested the murderer right away. How did they know who it was?

Answer: Nephew Nicolas was to blame.

If you know your elemental abbreviations, you probably noticed the correlation between what the chemist wrote down and one of the suspects. Ni + C + O + La + S spells the criminal’s name and points the finger at the criminal from beyond the grave.

#3

A man was found on the floor dead with a cassette recorder in one hand and a gun in the other. When the police arrived at the scene they pressed play on the recorder. It was the man’s voice. He said, “I have nothing else to live for. I can’t go on,” followed by the sound of a gunshot.

After listening, the police knew that this was a murder, not a suicide. How?