In Brief

MI6 sets Christmas card brainteaser: could you solve it?

The spy service is sending festive greetings with hidden messages

The British Secret Intelligence Service is getting into the Christmas spirit by sending out greeting cards designed to test the recipient’s code-breaking skills.

At first glance, the card looks like any other festive greeting, featuring “classic Christmas designs - a robin, a bauble, a Christmas pudding - and even a martini glass, possibly a reference to the Service’s most famous (fictional) member, James Bond”, says the Daily Mail.

But inside the card, rather than a greeting or signature, there is just a drawing of a magnifying glass.

And a second look at the picture on the front reveals that fingerprint-like whorls in each design contain written clues that can only be seen under a strong magnifying glass. Follow these and the recipient should be able to crack the mystery of the sender’s identity.

The Christmas cracker clue reads: “Try the robin, just a cracker, no joke.”

However, the writing on the robin’s breast simply states: “Unfortunately I’m not the message. Try looking at the plum pudding.”

The Christmas pudding directs readers to the reindeer, and then on to the olive of a martini - presumably shaken, not stirred. That too is a trick, though, reading: “I’m a red herring. Try something else.”

But the bauble directs readers to the back of the card, where a message - written in the characteristic green ink of the MI6 Chief, “C”, reads: “You’ve found the secret message. Well done. Wherever you are in the world, have a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. From your friends in the Secret Intelligence Service.”

The Telegraph says that if the card pops up on “the mantelpiece at a relative’s home this year, have no doubt they either have friends in the highest echelons of Britain’s secret service or are themselves a spy”.

The question of why an organisation tasked with being secret would send out a Christmas card to its associates remains unanswered, however.

The release of the card may be a PR stunt aimed at winning some Christmas goodwill for MI6, after the spy agency was criticised earlier this year for a lack of ministerial oversight of sensitive and potentially unlawful foreign missions, suggests the Financial Times.

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