Quirky World: Intelligence agency’s quiz proves too much to solve

Some of the stranger stories from around the globe


Amateur cryptographers have run out of time to solve GCHQ’s head-scratching Christmas puzzle, with the deadline for the festive challenge having passed at midnight Sunday.

Robert Hannigan, director of GCHQ — one of Britain’s intelligence and security agencies — released 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 was the first in a series of increasingly complex challenges.

Nearly 30,000 players reached the final stage — about 5% of those who started it — but none had successfully completed it by Sunday, GCHQ said. The complete solution to all stages of the puzzle will be published on the GCHQ website this month.

Legging it


It might seem hard to misplace a leg, but one young owner did just that after becoming entranced by a Disney-themed Christmas tree.

Pollyanna Hope, 10, who lost her right leg when a bus mounted a pavement and ploughed into her in 2007, inadvertently left her prosthetic leg, complete with trainer and tied laces under a Christmas tree at King’s Cross St Pancras last November.

Her father, Christopher Hope, the assistant editor and chief political correspondent at the Daily Telegraph, retrieved the missing limb the next morning, from the lost & found of Transport for London.

Scrambled in space


British astronaut Tim Peake has revealed he likes his eggs in the morning “space scrambled”.

The 43-year-old is more than a month into a six-month mission on board the International Space Station.

In a video posted on his Twitter account, Major Peake demonstrated how those on board the ISS cook breakfast. He heats the vacuum-packed food, saying “give it about five minutes and it will be ready to eat”.

Flying dolls


A Thai airline has embraced the country’s latest craze by treating dolls, cared for as real people by their owners, as if they were human passengers.

Budget airline Thai Smile has instructed staff to treat the luk thep, or “child angel” dolls, as if they were human passengers — as long as their seats were paid for.

The airline took note of the creepiness factor, suggesting the dolls best be seated as much as possible out of the sight of other passengers. Several restaurants have announced similar doll-friendly policies.

The adult owners of the dolls claim they bring good luck, especially if they are treated as living progeny.

Open-air relief


San Francisco’s Dolores Park is now home to the city’s first open-air urinal, the latest move to combat the destructive scourge of public urination.

The concrete circular urinal is out in the open, though plants and a screen offer some privacy. It is a welcome addition for the park that had just three toilets, which led many to relieve themselves in bushes and on buildings. The park now features 27 toilets.

A spokeswoman said she was not aware of any other cities with a public urinal.

Cabbage patch of road


A tractor-trailer overturned in North Carolina, spilling hundreds of heads of cabbage that took hours to clear away.

The truck veered off the side of Interstate 95 near Rocky Mount, over-corrected, then overturned, police said. Driver Kevin Ellis, 31, of Middleburg, Florida, faces charges including driving while impaired.

Traffic was gridlocked for at least 16km during the clean-up.


Whether you’re into a ‘no make-up make-up’ look or jet black lipstick, LFW had it all.These are the biggest beauty looks from a vampy London Fashion Week

It will take you out of your beauty comfort zone, but is remarkably easy to pull off.London Fashion Week: This top make-up artist wants you to ditch your cat-eye for a ‘blue fade’

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a 20-something man who isn’t having any luck meeting women in bars and clubs.Ask a counsellor: ‘Neither me or my mates have had a date for years – what are we doing wrong?’

As Aussie beer and cider brand Gayle launches in the UK, Abi Jackson finds out more from co-founder Virginia Buckworth.‘Brewed with love’: How new Aussie brand Gayle is putting ‘gay ale’ on the world drinks map

More From The Irish Examiner