GCHQ's Christmas puzzle continues to baffle as deadline looms
GCHQ's head-scratching Christmas puzzle has lived up to its name - with the deadline for solving the festive challenge looming, nobody has solved it.
Robert Hannigan, director of GCHQ - one of Britain's intelligence and security agencies - release d a festive card last month featuring not reindeer or Father Christmas, but a cryptographic challenge.
Participants had to fill in a grid-shading puzzle to unveil a picture, which is the first in a series of increasingly complex challenges.
But on Wednesday, GCHQ revealed that although a pproximately 30,000 players have reached the final stage - about 5% of those who started it, none have successfully completed the puzzle.
And with the closing date for entries being midnight on January 31, it is unclear whether any successful entries will be received.
The complete solution to all stages of the puzzle will be published on the GCHQ website in early February, after all entries have been received and the competition has closed.
GCHQ's website attracted unprecedented levels of visitors eager to take the challenge over the Christmas period. Nearly 600,000 people successfully completed the opening stage of the puzzle - a nonogram which when completed correctly, creates a "quick response" code which leads to the next stage of the challenge.
The puzzle was designed to amuse recipients of the director's card, but also encouraged them to make a donation to his chosen charity this year, the NSPCC.
Mr Hannigan said: 'I'm delighted that so many people have tried the puzzle and made a donation to the NSPCC."
Offering the tiniest glimmer of hope to frustrated puzzlers, he added: " W ith 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".