Frequently Asked Questions

What is DARPA?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) mission is to prevent and create strategic surprise by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military. The Agency sponsors revolutionary, high-payoff research bridging the gap between fundamental discoveries and their military use. You can learn more about DARPA by visiting

What is the goal of the Shredder Challenge?

The goal of the Shredder Challenge is to identify and assess potential capabilities that could be used by our warfighters operating in war zones, but might also create vulnerabilities to sensitive information that is protected through our own shredding practices throughout the U.S. national security community.

Question: What are the questions that I have to answer for each puzzle and how many points are they worth?

Answer: Every puzzle has one or more puzzle-specific questions. The mandatory questions for each puzzle follow:

Puzzle 1 What is the appropriate title being referenced?
[2 Points]

Puzzle 2 What is the deciphered message?
[4 points]

Puzzle 3 What is the indicated location?
(City/Town) [6 points]
(Country) [2 point]

Note: Partial points will be awarded for this puzzle based upon correct answers for either the City/Town and/or the Country. There is no requirement to provide answers for both elements of the question.

Puzzle 4
What are the names and/or initials of the collaborators?
[up to 12 points]

Note: The exact number of answers to this question has intentionally not been stated. Partial points will be awarded based upon the correct answers (up to a maximum of 12 points for all correct answers). Please provide answers separated by commas and exactly as they appear written on the page (e.g., Tom, Jay J, JOHN, etc).

Puzzle 5
What are the three translated message fragments?
[8 points]
[8 points]
[8 points]

Note: There is no requirement to put the fragments in any particular order. There is also no requirement to provide answers for all three fragments. Eight points will be awarded per correct answer.

All Puzzles You are also required to briefly explain the logic you used to answer the previous questions. This explanation will provide the link between your answers and the reconstructed document.

Question: Why do I have to submit answers to questions and an image of the reconstructed document?

Answer: We require answers to puzzle-specific questions because we feel that the true test of whether or not a document has been sufficiently reconstructed lies in the ability to ascertain useful information from it. We also require an image in order to ensure that participants are deriving their answers based upon a reconstructed document, not a guess or an answer they may have received elsewhere.

Question: How many times can I submit a solution for each puzzle?

Answer: You can submit solutions for any puzzle as often as you desire, but only your latest submission will count for score (even if that causes you to lose points). Furthermore, every time you submit a solution your latest timestamp is updated. This could become a factor because we will use timestamps to determine the winner in the event of a tie.

Question: I know I answered a question correctly, but I didn't get any points for it. What happened?

Answer: It is possible that your puzzle has not been graded yet or the leader board hasn't been updated. Results from your submission may take up to 24-48 hours to appear. It is also possible that your submitted image and the logic you used to solve the puzzle did not support the answer you provided. For example, if a document contained the words "blue" and "red" and you were asked what the result would be if the two colors were mixed, you would not earn points for simply providing the answer "purple." You must also provide an image in which you had reconstructed all or some portion of the words "blue" and "red" and explained that mixing the two together led you to the answer.

Non US Resident Eligibility:

We appreciate your interest in the DARPA Shredder Challenge. Participation in the Challenge is open to individuals and teams from any country; however, due to rules governing awarding prize money, a winning submission must be uploaded by a permanent resident or citizen of the United States.

Resolution of puzzles on Shredder Challenge Website:

Because of the nature of the problem we are trying to address, we have purposely left the resolution at 400 dpi. As warfighters find these documents on the battlefield, take pictures of them, and send them to an analysis shop, they are limited by size of file and bandwidth available to our forward deployed troops. This resolution ensures that we focus the scope of this problem to where it is most relevant to the Shredder Challenge team, the tactical warfighter on the battlefield.

Physical puzzles on Shredder Challenge Website:

Because of the nature of the problem we are trying to address, and current methods used to analyze the documents, we will not be sending out the chads from the destroyed documents. Current constraints require destroyed documents be photographed and then sent to analysis center for reconstruction. This facet of the puzzle ensures the scope of this problem remains focused where it is most relevant to the Shredder Challenge team, the tactical warfighter on the battlefield.

Question: When are puzzles graded and the leader board updated?

Answer: Every weekday morning we will grade submissions that were received before 7:30 AM Eastern Time. The leader board will be updated shortly after grading is complete. The exact time will vary depending upon the number of submissions received each day. During the weekend, submissions will be graded once and the leader board updated by Noon on Sunday.