Geeky Christmas fun?

Are you working over Christmas and New Year, like Sophos Support and SophosLabs?

If so, here’s a bit of fun – official, educational fun! – to tide you over those hours in the office when everyone else is taking your presence for granted. I’ve created a crossword puzzle which touches on computer history, programming, security, networking and more.

Better yet, if you email me your solution before the end of 2009, you stand a chance to win a free Sophos stashable picnic blanket, shown in action on the right.

The blanket folds up into a neat little package which you can keep in your car or your backpack in case handy beaches or meadows turn up. It is plasticised underneath for easy cleaning. (Note: the 12-pack of Sophos Lager is for illustration only. You don’t win it. That would be silly.)

You can solve the puzzle online or using a downloadable PDF. If you complete the puzzle successfully, capture a screenshot, or take a picture with your mobile phone, and email it to me. The first three correct entries received in 2009 win a picnic blanket; the remainder will go into a draw for a further three blankets.

If you get stuck, your favourite search engine will help you greatly. If you are still stuck, try emailing me for hints. And if you are really stuck, have a look at the Javascript behind the online puzzle. The answers aren’t directly contained in there, but they are stored as hashes and can be recovered using a dictionary attack, or even by brute force.

So there’s a reverse-engineering challenge, too, for those who want one. (Hint: solve as much as you can before you start the attack. It’ll save you computing time.)