MGWCC #346

crossword about 5 hours to write

Matt here, doing a quick self-blog.


Very tough Week 3, which just 83 solvers found. We were looking for a well-known peninsula, and the three apparent (and actual, it turned out) theme entries were:

16-A [“Roger” and “me,” in the sentence “Jennifer gave Roger and me the books”] = INDIRECT OBJECTS

35-A [Very smart person, per a cliche] = ROCKET SCIENTIST

56-A [Old-school Secret Service] = PRAETORIAN GUARD

What’s going on here? Well, “You’re Surrounded!” is the title, there are three theme entries, and a peninsula is surrounded on three sides by water. This suggests that each of the three theme entries points to a body of water.

The entry initials: I.O., R.S., P.G. = Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf. Which surround meta-answer the ARABIAN PENINSULA.


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82 Responses to MGWCC #346

  1. Paul Coulter says:

    Good meta, Matt, and surprisingly tough. Given the title and answer category, I’m sure many like me searched hard for surrounding bodies of water, and missed the simple device of using initials. But I did find a different solution I think is pretty solid. I’ve asked Matt for Alternate Answer consideration. What does the group think?
    In the NE, a perfect C is formed by connecting the EC in Objects, R in Oreos, A in Aha, and MI in El Camino, anagramming to Crimea. A perfect O is formed in the left central by the A of Paloma, E and I of Eric, R and C of Rocket, and M of TMI, anagramming again to Crimea. A perfect D is formed in the SE by the OUTS of Timeouts, H of Shes, RE of Trees, and second N of Oneonta, anagramming to Southern. (A major Icelandic landmass is called the Southern Peninsula.) Each letter’s shape passes through one and only one of the themers. They form COD in a placement about as symmetric as possible. I think any experienced solver would consider this too much of a find to be coincidence.
    Here are some objections that occur to me. Two CRIMEAs seemed a bit inelegant for Matt’s usual high standards, but then I realized he wouldn’t want three of the same. Half the solvers would think this was the answer, rejecting Cod as a cape. But on that point, it’s geographically a peninsula, despite the name. And he wouldn’t ask for a cape, because there’d be too many blind guesses of Cod with each of the three themers containing one of those letters in order. Yes, three different peninsulas forming the letters would have been better, and yes, I feel dumb for missing the initials, something I usually check for early on, but when I found the COD after three days of scouring the puzzle, it was one of my biggest AHA moments ever.

    • bwouns says:

      I submitted Crimea for similar reasons, along with Yalta being in the grid. Also, attempting to get in the mind of the puzzle maker, my thinking was that Crimea was heavily in the news a few months ago and perhaps Matt noticed some wordplay possibilities but decided to wait a few months so that it wouldn’t be too fresh in solver’s minds. Anyway, it was Tuesday morning and I had nothing else so I submitted. Unfortunately, I failed to notice the deadline extension. I wasted a whole day during which I actually figured out what was going on. Oy. I don’t know if I would have figured it out if I wasn’t able to rule out Crimea however.

  2. abide says:

    I think what may have made this so hard is that the gimmick was so easy. I followed the logic path from the title (remember the surrounding states?), eventually focusing on IND>>>O>>> as Indian Ocean, and the other two came shortly after that.

    There have many weeks when looking at the initials was one of my dead ends; I think it was a neat misdirection to use such a simple gimmick in Week 3.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Thanks, Peter. I liked that this was a geography meta where there were no maps or anything hidden in the grid (for once). And that the 3 theme entries = 3 watery sides of a peninsula was hinted at subtly, but that you really had to make that connection or I.O., R.S. and P.G. wouldn’t mean anything to you.

  3. David R says:

    I was really surprised by how difficult this one was for solvers. The title immediately sent me thinking of what a peninsula was and it being surrounded on three sides by water and hence three themed answers. My first thought was Sinai, as a peninsula and saw the RS starting the theme answer. When the rest didn’t fit I kept my Red Sea and saw PG and was essentially done. I may have been fortunate in the way my mind went as far as assumptions but this one fell faster then last week.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      exactly the solve I wanted people to have.

      • makfan says:

        I fell for the Sinai trap. I didn’t get Persian Gulf. Oops. I even tried to come up with something from the history of the Praetorian Guard and that seemed to reinforce Sinai because I was too committed to it.

  4. George says:

    Drats, I was very tempted by the roger and me hint at Michigan and the upper peninsula, but saw nothing else to support it. So I was looking for letters spelling bodies of water surrounding three sides of one box on the grid, or the letters U and R surrounding a box on 3 sides. Finally I gave up and went with Korean. Each of the three main entries are two words, one even numbered and one odd. The middle letter of the odd word and second of the pair of middle letters in the even word, spell Korean. Those letters were surrounded, but the sloppiness of the second middle letter made me think it wasn’t correct. And it wasn’t.

  5. pannonica says:

    Maybe if there had been three more answers, with the initials AS, ES, and GOI?

  6. Ephraim says:

    The title suggested “U R” surrounded and led me to stare unproductively at the letters around occurrences of UR in the grid. Nothing.

    • Kana says:

      I was led astray similarly by the 10 Us , 7 of which were partially surrounded and 2 were surrounded by letters that anagrammed to meaningful words (ELECTRIC, RESTAKED/RETASKED/STREAKED). Nothing.

    • makfan says:

      I did that for a while, too.

    • Daniel Barkalow says:

      I was inordinately fascinated by the U in the SE corner, around which it reads (clockwise from the left) GOAT.

  7. Dan Seidman says:

    I was also led astray by the Michigan connection, and for ROCKET SCIENTIST I thought of Cape Canaveral. Then the last theme entry was surrounded by — in the grid — ONEONTA and PINT, so the surrounding letters spelled out ONE ON TAP and I thought of beer as in IBERIA.

    Eventually I returned to the initials — what made that hard is that it was easy to reject it as being way too vague to be useful. You have to first realize (or at least hypothesize) that you’re looking for clues to three bodies of water that surround a well-known peninsula in order to narrow it down enough that the initials are sufficient.

  8. Jim Q says:

    Thrown off by the wacky ALT clue and all of the 2000 dates in the puzzle… thought for sure we had to decipher a code that was produced using the ALT key combined with the years, which produces a pretty interesting set of code by the way! Good puzzle, Matt!

  9. pannonica says:

    Have to confess, I carelessly didn’t even consider ‘mere’ initials (only) for a Week 3 theme.

    George, Dan Seidman: I also had extravagant notions for both Michigan (albeit the Lower Peninsula) and Iberia, which this margin is too narrow to contain.

  10. Mutman says:

    I couldn’t make heads or tails of the theme answers. Initials indicating bodies of water just didn’t hit me.

    I was then convinced that this would be some visual meta. Maybe like the Nike meta of yore. That really didn’t work, but then thought I had it (while not looking at puzzle). I was convinced there would be distinct letter surrounded on three sides, by say HHO (for water obviously) or SEA. I was saddened when that didn’t work out.

    Some research on Yalta led me to Crimea which seems current. So I went with that.

    I also couldn’t figure out the extranous ‘A’ at he end of Dickensian. So since I was guessing anyway, I hoped that ‘A’ would complete my Crimea.

    Not so.

    And nothing personal Paul, but I think your Cape Cod solution was just too far fetched.

  11. Flinty Steve says:

    Just ugh. Could we be on the way to another 4-solver week 5?

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Ugh I should’ve gotten that or Ugh too tough for Week 3 or Ugh I didn’t like the meta itself?

      • Flinty Steve says:

        Aspirationally, first ugh; realistically, second ugh. The third ugh were churlish.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          Aha, OK. One of my testers got it quickly and the other not at all. I was surprised that only 83 people got it, since I thought the 3=3 thing was straightforward, even with the title clue.

          Jangler, if you’re here, do you want to tell people about your solve?

          • JanglerNPL says:

            Sure, though “solve” belongs in quotation marks here. I ended up (correctly) guessing ARABIAN PENINSULA solely for the purpose of punning on “well-known” in the instructions.

          • Vraal says:

            Holy crap. Jangler GUESSED?!?!

            Bravo sir, I say to you, bravo on the pun you saw that I didn’t notice even after I got the answer. Bravo for not agonizing over this meta an extra 24 hours than necessary. This is why we all love our Jangler.

            As for me, I anticipated the 3 long entries had to be the key, since a peninsula is surrounded on 3 sides. I found nothing associative, found no wordplay further than PRETORIA (which is not Week 3 material), and after far too long, I half-remembered the VERITAS meta. Initialisms are on the “what would Gaffney do” list of things to ask yourself if you tried, but man, I tend to forget that one until very late in the game.

  12. Sam Donaldson says:

    I never saw the initials, as I was convinced the three OUTs (OUTDO, EKE OUT, TIME-OUTS) had something to do with the solution. Surely, I thought, a double-dupe (“trip?”) would not be an oversight.

    The lesson: Don’t call me Shirley.

    • Amy Reynaldo says:

      Would you believe I only saw two of the OUTs? Still found it distracting, because it’s not like Matt to use dupes.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        I don’t really consider reusing little words like OUT as dupes, especially if, as here, they’re not near each other. They’re very slightly suboptimal, but I’d only ding this puzzle .05 or maybe .1 for OUTDO/TIMEOUTS/EKE OUT.

        • mrbreen says:

          Actually there are 4 outs. One of them hides in the clue for 9A: bring (out).

          Enjoyed the meta as always.

  13. Joe says:

    So convinced, CONVINCED, I was that the first theme answer suggested Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the second theme answer suggested the Florida Peninsula, and the third theme answer suggested the Italian Peninsula, I could not, would not, be swayed from trying to figure something from there. Then throw in fricking YALTA. Now I’m thinking of the Crimean Peninsula. There was no hope for me. I Hail Mary-ed Iberia for no reason whatsoever.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      You know, I just put “Roger and me” in there because I needed a regular plural usage for INDIRECT OBJECTS and the first proper name that came into my mind for “___ and me” was Roger. Because of the movie of course, though I have not seen it and didn’t associate it consciously when I wrote the clue.

      There’s an Agatha Christie book where Jane Marple knows a woman is lying because (I can’t remember the exact names, making these two up now) the name “Hammond” has come up in the investigation, and she asks the woman what the name of their supposed (but invented, it turns out) friend was, and she instantly replies “Fletcher.” Marple happens to know that there is a store in London called Hammond & Fletcher, and that therefore was the first fake name that came to the woman’s mind.

  14. Bruce S. says:

    I spent far too long trying to make some connection between the 7 instances of exclamation points inside quotes in the clues since the title included that too. There seemed to be too many to not mean anything.

  15. DBraun91 says:

    I admittedly back-solved this one off of a list of well-known peninsulas. I figured the title was clearly pointing us to the bodies of water that surround said peninsulas, and summed the 3 15ers had something to do with the theme, although it would have been cool if somehow the name of the peninsula we were looking for somehow surrounded the groups of 3 black squares that jut out (penisularly) into the sea of letters that form the fill of the puzzle. Luckily Arabian Peninsula is at the top of he list for well-known peninsulas, so it didn’t take long for me to see that the surrounding bodies matched the initials for the theme answers.

  16. Rachel P. says:

    I too bought into the URs. You are surrounded. U R surrounded. After trying a long time to anagram the (many) letters surrounding the various URs in the grid (Urdu, Uturn, Turk, Hurry, Runny) I stepped back and it occurred to me that the Crimean peninsula could be said to be Ukraine and Russia– UR– surrounded. Slam dunk in my mind. Especially because I kept anagram-ing back to Ancient Greece/Greeks, which, Wiki tells me, were early colonizers of the Crimean peninsula. I was so sure I was correct and was mad at myself for over-working the week 3. Hubris!

  17. Matt Gaffney says:

    These ratings are horrific, especially since no one has commented negatively.

    If you’re going to 1- or 1.5-star a meta, would you be so kind as to tell me what you didn’t like? Anonymously is fine. Otherwise I just interpret it as sour grapes for not getting the meta, which is something I can’t help.

    • Mark says:

      The overall rating seems about right to me. Ok fill, average theme. Not exciting, but still worth the solve. Can’t speak for those who scored the puzzle a 1.0 or 1.5, that’s extreme. Although I will say from experience doing market research that showing a real time average of previous ratings often encourages extreme ratings. For example, if the current puzzle rating average is a 4.0 but I think the puzzle was a 3.0, my doppelgänger might score the puzzle a 2.0 to move the average closer to my personal score. Might consider not showing ratings until the blog reader scores the puzzle, but then you lose the ability of the blog to direct readers to great puzzles they wouldn’t otherwise solve based on transparent high ratings.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        I’ve seen those Yelp reviews where someone gives a restaurant 1 star for what turns out to be an inane reason, but on Yelp you have to write 100 words or something no matter what you rate it. That’s a great system.

      • Mark says:

        One more thing…the consideration set matters. Some people are probably rating this relative to the average Matt Gaffney puzzle (this puzzle I would say is below the average Gaffney…sorry Matt, you’ve set the bar high), while others are rating this relative to the average puzzle covered by this blog (in which case this puzzle is a 4.0). Not everyone will have the same relative baseline, so beware of interpretation. In this case, your request for qualitative feedback is exactly right.

    • Justin says:

      I don’t rate on this site. And you know I like your puzzles. But in my opinion, using initials for things that don’t regularly go by initials is not very elegant. Say, if you had Tin Xylophone (best I could come up with off the top of my head!), Martin Short, Azure Blue, Lil’ Abner, and File Location to clue “The Gulf of Mexico” that would be better. But I haven’t ever seen IO, PG, and RS to refer to these bodies of water.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        OK, thanks — this is a comment that is extremely helpful to me.

        Of course I agree with your main point, initials aren’t a high-tech meta device. The reason I made an exception here is that 1) I wanted to fool solvers with a geography meta that wasn’t map-based, 2) I liked that you needed (well, it helped) to see the 3 entries = 3 sides of a peninsula correlation, and 3) that, by using three different body of water types (not two seas, for example), there’d be no pattern in the initials to grab onto if you hadn’t had the 3=3 insight.

        I myself would give this a 3.85, fyi. Though I did like the 3=3 thing, in case you can’t tell since I’ve only brought it up about ten times in comments…

      • Vraal says:

        This. I agree with this. This is what took me so damnably long.

        • Matt Gaffney says:

          I added to my comment. One thing I forgot the add at the end is that I viewed I.O., R.S. and P.G. as not being commonly used abbrevs. as a feature, not a bug, for reason 3) above.

      • "C" says:

        I am guessing that you are giving the State abbreviations/postal codes for the states that border the Gulf of Mexico. I see TX (Texas), MS (Mississippi), LA (Louisiana), and FL (Florida). The State of Alabama is AL, not AB. If that is not what you are doing, I apologize for saying anything!!!!

    • abide says:

      I think your interpretation is primarily correct. I don’t normally rate, but I gave it 5 stars because I got it. Sometimes I think people may be grading themselves, not the puzzle.

      Since the meta was not a high-wire act like RECIDIVISM, some may objectively dock it a star or two. I think the “meta in plain sight that not many got” made it pretty cool. The title hint was more than subtle. If hundreds had gotten this right, I would grade it 3 or 3.5.

  18. Mark says:

    Got this by reverse engineering, similar to my approach with Rosa Parks (working backwards from European capitals). There really are only a few “well-known” peninsulas, which are commonly referred to as peninsulas in common language (pun notwithstanding)…Arabian, Sinai, Michigan UP, etc. From there it was looking for anything in the puzzle that bridged the gap. Finally saw PG = Persian Gulf, then kicked myself for spending 2 days figuring that out despite having narrowed down the possibilities at the outset. Admittedly, I thought the puzzle itself would be some kind of map…

  19. Jim S. says:

    I got hung up on the years, all of which were even and therefore Olympic years. Praetorian, although Roman, also had me thinking Greece. Couldn’t get away from that train of thought. Perfectly fair meta, just overthought it. Although I’m likely to only get 24-28 metas in 2015, I’m lamenting the fact that I can only miss 3 more before I no longer qualify for the prize. Maybe we can convince Matt to offer a booby prize – only folks who get every week 1 and 2 but no other weeks are eligible!

  20. AK37 says:

    I found the letters in ATLANTIC OCEAN connected in the upper middle section, and the same for NORTH SEA in the SE corner and I thought I was on to something, ala the NIKE puzzle. Only after looking at an actual map did it hit me. Perfect for a Week 3 if you ask me.

  21. baskin98 says:

    So straight-forward. So simple. So frustrating.

    Started out thinking 3=3, but was distracted by almost every single one of the above – all the instances of ‘u’, you’re=’ur’, peninsulas look like ‘u’, anagramming letters surrounding ‘u’, the three ‘out’s (plus one in the clues), Michigan, the exclamation points. All the while, couldn’t stop thinking, “You’re surrounded! Come out with your hands up!”. This led to a Hail Mary of Michigan’s lower since it looks like a hand.

    Great puzzle, just kicking myself for overthinking. It would have been a piece of cake as a week 2, but somehow more befuddling as a week 3.

  22. Dave C says:

    I over-complicated things by looking for patterns in the perimeter answers (3 per side, representing the sides of a peninsula) that matched the 3 theme answers. Anagrams, anything. Then whatever side did NOT correspond to a theme answer would hold the key to the meta-solve.

  23. Cuse says:

    Perhaps I over thought the puzzle being that it is only week 3. I considered the title, “You’re Surrounded!” as an exclamatory warning. In doing so I found the following alternative answers to certain clues which are also exclamatory warnings.

    27a – Classic Chevy – AVALANCHE!
    39a – “u can stop now” – UNCLE!
    42a – North Carolina’s Cape – LOOKOUT!
    24d – Gold rush city – EUREKA!
    53d – Fir or fig – TIMBER!

    I anagrammed the first letter of the alternative clues to form Aleut which led me to the Alaska Peninsula which includes part of the Aleutian mountain range and extends to the Aleutian Islands; hence the title “You’re Surrounded” seemed to fit my answer as well.

  24. Mike W says:

    Kudos to those that got the right answer. I have not rated the puzzle yet, but the meta seems to lack the normal Gaffney elegance (again, a testimony to Matt’s construction brilliance). Even had I connected the initials to bodies of water, I wouldn’t have gotten the answer. If the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf are used for the west and east borders, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea should be used for the southern border (as shown on the map above). The use of the Indian Ocean instead of the Gulf of Aden/Arabian Sea should also extend to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf (note the use of all caps for the Indian Ocean as opposed to the capitalization for the other four bodies of water in the map). According to Wikipedia, the Indian Ocean includes all four of these bodies of water.

    • Eric Prestemon says:

      This “Arabian Sea” see thing isn’t just a quibble. The first themer seemed likely to be INDI-* very early on, so I scanned around the Indian Ocean.

      Google Maps clearly showing “Arabian Sea” next to the Arabian peninsula was a big “this is wrong” message to me.

      Only when I considered a list of “R” seas (3-4 days) later did I come back to Arabia, just in time Tuesday night.

      Between the barest connection of the theme entries to the clued bodies of water, the 6 letters of theme material in the puzzle, and the ambiguity of Arabian Sea, this is roughly a 2-2.5 star puzzle for me.

      • Matt Gaffney says:

        Come on, this is not a convincing argument. The Persian Gulf and Red Sea may be hydrologically part of the Indian Ocean, but they’re almost completely enclosed so they are always labeled as the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The Arabian Sea is different, not enclosed at all and clearly a region of an ocean, like the Sargasso Sea. The common, everyday definition of the I.O. always includes the A.S., but never the R.S. or the P.G.

        The Wikipedia page for the Arabian Peninsula states:

        “The peninsula formed as a result of the rifting of the Red Sea between 56 and 23 million years ago, and is bordered by the Red Sea to the west, the Persian Gulf to the northeast, the Levant to the north and the Indian Ocean to the southeast.”

        The Wikipedia page for the Arabian Sea states:

        “The Arabian Sea is a region of the northern Indian Ocean bounded on the north by Pakistan and Iran, on the southwest by northeastern Somalia, on the east by India, and on the west by the Arabian Peninsula.”

        • Eric Prestemon says:

          I agree that I.O + P.G. + R.S. as bodies of water is unambiguous, basically, pointing to Arabia.

          My point is that I haven’t memorized wikipedia, so browsing around a map for peninsulas sticking into the Indian Ocean, having only Arabian Sea (and Gulf of Aden) show up on Google Maps convinced me that Arabia does not border on the Indian Ocean, if that’s all I’m going by.

          There were two non-solid steps (but gettable, and I did get it) in this meta, which is why it was so hard and why I rate it below average. I’m sorry if that’s not convincing, it’s just my opinion.

          • Matt Gaffney says:

            Fair enough, and I didn’t mean to come across heavy-handed if I did. I do appreciate hearing the reasoning behind your assessment of the meta.

          • Tom says:

            I had a similar take. I was mostly solving this meta 6 miles above the earth somewhere over the Atlantic (returning from London). It took me an embarrassingly long time to have the insight that 3 themers = 3 sides (but it was satisfying when I did). It took me a bit longer to see the initials thing. Once I did, I brainstormed and came up with Red Sea and Indian Ocean, and was pretty excited. But on the plane, I had no internet, so I had to wait to get home to confirm. Google Maps and nearly every map on Image Search was labeled “Arabian Sea” which gave me pause, but I submitted Arabian Peninsula anyway. I was relieved, and a bit surprised, to see this morning that I was right.

    • Dan Seidman says:

      I think the only requirement is that it be unambiguous, and if you’re looking for a peninsula surrounded by three bodies of water with those initials, it’s perfectly clear.

      If you had to go the other way (name three bodies of water surrounding the Arabian Peninsula), then it would be unclear.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      Mike W: The Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea are *always and unambiguously* considered part of the Indian Ocean. The Red Sea and Persian Gulf *are not*.

      Lakes Huron and Michigan are actually one big lake, hydrologically speaking. Imagine if I wrote a meta where you had to treat them as one because of that? That’s the same as treating the RS and PG as part of the IO.

      • Mike W says:


        Your logic makes sense. I’m just acknowledging my lack of geography sense – I always associate the Arabian Sea (as opposed to the Indian Ocean) with the Arabian Peninsula.

  25. Abby says:

    Had to do this one quickly and got it wrong. I tried it first, but I didn’t immediately get anything from the initials and didn’t like taking initials of the long words for no reason. If I’d had more time to look at it, might’ve gotten it but…

    There were so darn many references to places in the clues and entries. I thought maybe that was something and there were too many peninsulas to easily do the “eliminate all the mentioned ones and have the answer left”, so I thought maybe it was another map and with the Norwegian things went with Scandinavia (though Crimea was in the wrong place).

    Sad to miss it, since my year is off to a good start, but considering there are common things that are abbreviated IO (Input/Output), RS (Royal Society), and PG (Parental Guidance) that I see a lot in puzzles, using initials here just seemed random to me. More me than the puzzle, but I’m not surprised it didn’t connect with people.

  26. Joe Eckman says:

    Nice puzzle, Matt. I’ve never rated a puzzle here, but I’ll give this week 4 stars. I’ll echo other commenters by saying that the solve time was increased by initially looking past the initials. Week 3’s usually require an added step, I think. Had I been in a week 2 solve mode, I feel like it would have dawned on me on Friday, not Monday. My “aha” moment was more of an, “oh, duh” moment. Looking forward (as always) to Friday…

    Matt, how many subscribers are you up to? And on a tough week like this, do the overall submissions go down markedly, or do most people throw up a Hail Mary?

  27. Bob Kerfuffle says:

    I figure I never had a chance with this one, since the only peninsulas I came up with, without consulting a list, were Florida, Sinai, and Kamchatka. And I never rate puzzles.

    But the important question, re: 6D – Matt, what got you on the red carpet at the re-opening of MOMA? And for that matter, what got Carol Alt on the red carpet? :>)

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      My good friend from high school’s mom, who is Japanese, is longtime family friends with the architect who did the MoMA remodeling, Yoshio Taniguchi. It was quite bizarre to find myself, very tangentially related to the whole thing and not much of an art museum visitor, whisked away to high-security areas of the museum (like where they touched-up million-dollar paintings) as one of 7 people on this special tour that included Taniguchi’s wife.

  28. jmbrow29 says:

    Hmm. I got lucky on this one with a guess based on the title. I interpreted “You’re surrounded” as YOU (Y=Yemen, O=Oman, U=United Arab Emirates) are surrounded. Since those are on the edge of the peninsula I just went for it not realizing at all how the theme entries relate. I’m pretty sure I’ve used up my luck for 2015 on the Gaffney’s. Too soon!

  29. Al says:

    Haven’t seen my particular failure mode mentioned yet, so I’ll share. I saw ADRIATIC executing a UTURN in the SW corner. So I started looking at bodies of water surrounding Italy. Then I found TYRRH running backwards along the bottom, which cried out Tyrrhenian Sea. Of course, I couldn’t complete Tyrrhenian in the grid and never found an Ionian, so I knew I had to missing something, but never found anything better, so went with ITALY.

    Sigh, anyone else suffer from Gaffney Meta Fail Depression Syndrome on days like this?

  30. jefe says:

    Alternate answer:

    Overthought the hell out of this. Like others, You’re Surrounded = “U R” surrounded, and a peninsula is not entirely surrounded. Around the UR in the NW I found GIRDLE leaving the N; around the UR in the center I found CIRCLET leaving the E, which looked promising but didn’t lead anywhere.

    Took the map approach, looking for bodies of water hidden somehow – Atlantic Ocean up top, couldn’t quite connect Mediterranean Sea in the bottom, though the letters are there, which would have given Iberia.

    I did consider the initials of the themers, but not in the way they were meant to be considered. I guess I expected something more involved for a week 3.

  31. mathdanmom says:

    I am thrilled to have gotten this one. The 3 theme entries seemed so arbitrary, I kept looking for their significance, and finally noticed the initials. I had already listed some likely peninsulas, and stared at a map for some surrounding bodies of water, so it didn’t take much to realize what IO, RS and PG would stand for. I love the fact that each is a different type so the second initials are all different. However, I was convinced there would be more to it, and that I had still missed something more. Matt, so many times I am amazed at how much theme material you pack into a puzzle. This one had just the six letters. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you set the bar so high that we start to expect elaborate clues or constraints in the fill. I kept thinking “why is Oneonta here? this must mean something” etc. I think it was a good puzzle, but maybe in the bottom 25% of YOUR weekly puzzles. They can’t all be your best. I am eager for week 4, bring it on!

  32. Norm says:

    I took a chance on LIGURIAN for “U R surrounded”, since I didn’t have a clue what to do with the theme answers.

  33. Jason T says:

    Late to the party, but I’m happy to say that I followed the intended path, more or less. I was convinced from the title and the peninsula answer that we just HAD to be looking for the bodies of water that surrounded it – it just took a while to find the mechanism. I came up with the initials idea on the basis of Indian Ocean (thank goodness “indirect” starts with “ind”!) – but then was flummoxed, thinking, “What type of body of water could start with G?” But I found a list of “famous peninsulas,” looked for the Indian Ocean, and found the answer. A very satisfying moment to discover that the Persian Gulf provides the requisite G-body-of-water! But still, I was nervous that I might have stumbled onto a coincidence – happy it wasn’t!

  34. Jack says:

    Guys, I thought this puzzle was great. Very “simple” (as in, not unnecessarily complicated) and clean. No question whether Arabian was the right answer or not, and very obvious how the puzzle was intended to be solved. Often it’s the least complicated explanation that is the correct one, and for all the wizards who overthought it, we’ve all been there at least once. Upset that initials was too simple for a week 3? Well, come on. That’s a tactic as good as any other! For people arguing over the Indian Ocean thing, it was fairly obvious that the other clues led to Red Sea and Persian Gulf, so that clue was just the clincher, not key. My biggest complaint about the puzzle? I didn’t think Arabian peninsula was a “well-known” place. I almost submitted Saudi boot before I looked it up.

  35. PD Wadler says:

    I never had the satisfying “aha!” Moment, even though my guess was correct. My maps said Arabian Sea instead of Indian Ocean, but I just couldn’t dismiss the coincidence of RS (Red Sea) and PG ( Persian Gulf). I’m one of those first through third week solvers. Even knowing the correct answer, and having gotten it, I’m afraid this wasn’t a very satsfying solve.

  36. magoo says:

    My problem with the much-repeated 3=3 justification is that thinking all peninsulas are surrounded on ‘three’ sides is a very rectangular view of the world, e.g. Kamchatka seems to have two sides, Iberia is surrounded by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean (though you could add the Bay of Biscay and the Straits of Gibraltar in, making four sides). However, if you do stick with the ‘three-sided’ view, please consider my Alternate Credit Claim for noticing that the only two squares in the grid surrounded on three sides by the same letter were H and K, making Hong Kong (in a better-known initialisation than IO etc). Hong Kong is at least arguably a peninsula.
    And I can understand some low ratings if the writers effectively think the meta is a ‘fail’ (and what stronger evidence could there be than Jangler throwing a Hail Mary?). Grading the puzzle at 3.85 yourself, Matt, shows a level of chutzpah equivalent to calling your own 2006 book ‘classic’ … perhaps it’s for others to judge.

    • Matt Gaffney says:

      magoo — the “classic” reference there was a tongue-in-cheek joke for those who knew I had written it. And what’s wrong with me assessing my own puzzle at X.XX stars? I think it’s inherently interesting to know how any crossword writer (or any creator of anything) ranks their own stuff.

      • magoo says:

        Yes, I assumed it was tongue-in-cheek, and anyway I don’t really mind the chutzpah. As Amy says below, the clueing is always fun, especially when personal, and this was a very well filled grid. So I can’t really tell if it’s my sour grapes that I end up not being impressed by the meta for once. I’m sure I’d have loved it if I’d got it…

    • Amy L says:

      I also found the “3-sides to a peninsula” the most problematic thing with this meta. I kept thinking of the Peloponnesian peninsula, which doesn’t have 3 sides. I think of a peninsula as being surrounded by water on all sides but one, i.e., it isn’t surrounded. So I had no idea where to go for the meta.

      I also think Matt was joking when he referred to his book as classic, similar to his joking Carol Alt clue. I think his oddball clues (like when he refers to his cats or red carpet walk) give his puzzles lots of flavor. Often, for me, Matt’s cluing is the most fun part of the puzzle, which is why I enjoy his crosswords even when I don’t get the meta.

      • pgw says:

        I agree that the notion that a peninsula has three sides (and thus might be surrounded by three bodies of water) is non-obvious. Many peninsulas just jut out into a single body of water. I myself spent a good deal of time trying to make sense of the letters that surround the black-square “peninsulas” that jut out from the edges in the hopes that they might for example anagram to the names of seas or oceans or whatever, an idea I thought would have been pretty cool.

        I also had a super-elaborate solution path that very nearly led to YUCATAN, starting with Yalta and proceeding through a set of increasingly-tenuous “peninsula-related” grid entries like Urdu (India) and Turk (Anatolia). Luckily, there wasn’t even a comically absurd way to make it work with N (don’t ask how I talked myself into the second A), and I was forced to go back to basics.

        I find the actual solution a little maddening in its head-slapping simplicity, but that is part of its charm. I don’t know what that translates to in terms of number of stars.

  37. pannonica says:

    All right, time to share my dead ends.

    Roger & Me dealt with hardships in Flint, Michigan.
    The Pretoria, one of the largest wooden ships in history, was constructed in West Bay City, Michigan.

    Both these locales are on the Lower Peninsula. What of ROCKET SCIENTIST, you ask? Well, Tesla Motors is spearheaded by Elon Musk, who also owns SpaceX. And where is Tesla Motors headquartered? That’s right, Palo Alto, Californ—goddammitsomuch.

    Another curiosity is that the symmetrical answers 24a and 44a, PALOMA | ROMERO, correspond to the name of a Spanish geologist who studied characteristics of the Iberian Peninsula: “Evolución geológica del relieve de la península Ibérica” (2010).

  38. Mlou says:

    Just another wrong path – I got stuck on Da Vinci as the rocket scientist. That fit with the Praetorian Guard and sorta fit with indirect objects – like those dropped off the Tower of Pisa! So, I guessed Italy…

  39. drdans says:

    I got stuck in a completely different blind alley — Roger & Me made me confident about Michigan; Praetorian Guards the Italian peninsula; having a hand & a leg/foot of course led me to Florida for Rocket Scientist, because (ahem). After that, all that was needed was another convincing anatomic peninsula…

  40. Alex says:

    Usually don’t comment, but I don’t understand the criticisms above. Maybe I’m biased because I spent two solid days of looking at initials of words at Mystery Hunt, but I thought this was as straightforward as it gets. (Not to insult anyone who didn’t get it, just providing my perspective.)

    Peninsula = 3 sides.
    Three long answers.

    Oh, they must match up in some way. Let me list some famous peninsulas and their surrounding bodies. Lo and behold, the initials match up.

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