Sunday 23 October 2016

Irish man (41) solves the 'toughest code breaking challenge in the world'

Published 06/02/2016 | 13:20

David McBryan, one of three winners of the GCHQ Christmas puzzle. Photograph: Douglas Jones/PA
David McBryan, one of three winners of the GCHQ Christmas puzzle. Photograph: Douglas Jones/PA

David McBryan from Dublin has proved that he is more than capable of joining the elite ranks of the UK's national intelligence and security agency by winning its Christmas card cryptology challenge.

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The challenge consisted of five rounds and saw David beat 600,000 people to become the closest person (along with two other competitors) to fully solving the series of challenges set by director of the UK Government Headquarters (GCHQ) Robert Hannigan in his Christmas card.

The other two 'winning' competitors were US-born Kelley Kirklin (54) from London, and Wim Hulpia (40) from Lovendegem in Belgium.

The compendium of word and number puzzles took a team of eight GCHQ cryptographers two months to compile and included subjects as diverse as knowledge of phonetics, semaphore, French, snooker and The Lord of the Rings.

The cryptographers chose the three winners based on the quality of their reasoning.

The organisation has denied claims that it uses the challenge as a recruitment tool but said the winners, like anyone else, were "welcome to apply" for jobs.

McBryan, who now lives in Edinburgh, said the possibility of winning was "driving him along" as he attempted to outsmart the other competitors.

"I thought I had solved it but a news report came out a few days ago saying nobody had," he said when speaking to the Irish Daily Star.

"So I went back and had another look and figured out what I missed but I was too late at that point.

"But it seems everyone else missed it as well and I was joint closest."

McBryan is a former Fifteen to One fame show winner who now writes questions for the show.

He describes himself as a professional quiz master and told the BBC: "The more puzzles you do, the better you get at doing puzzles - and I have done a lot of puzzles. I am a bit of an addict."

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