05/27/2005 03:13 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Puzzle Answer:

Yesterday I posted this question: Name the European nations that have at one point governed parts of the Western Hemisphere (not including Greenland, Iceland, or any Viking colonies in the Americas); and for each country, name all the places that they have so governed, up to a maximum of three. Here are the answers, as promised:

The three obvious ones:

1. England -- British Honduras (Belize), Guyana, the Falklands, and a few other places.

2. Spain -- Mexico, Argentina, Florida, and many more.

3. France -- Canada, Louisiana, Haiti, and others.

Three more shouldn't be hard to get:

4. Portugal -- Brazil, down to Uruguay.

5. Holland -- Manhattan, Suriname, the Netherlands Antilles.

6. Russia -- Alaska, Ft. Ross in Northern California.

Now, two more that are pretty obscure:

7. Sweden -- a mid-1600s colony mostly in Delaware and New Jersey ("New Sweden"), and St. Bartholomew and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.

8. Denmark -- the Danish West Indies, in what are now the U.S. Virgin Islands. (The Danish overseas empire is largely forgotten, but the Danes also governed some settlements in India, for a time the Nicobar Islands off the coast of Thailand, and some forts in what is now Ghana. The Austrians also laid claim to the Nicobar Islands, which is to my knowledge the entire extent of the Austrian overseas empire.)

Two more that are extremely obscure, but one of which

9. Courland, a grand duchy in what is now mostly Latvia. It was then answerable to the King of Poland, but it was essentially independent, and was a prominent naval power for a brief period in the mid-1600s. Courland had a settlement in Tobago. I am not making this up.

10. The Knights of Malta owned St. Croix and St. Barthelemy for very brief spells during the mid-1600s, and apparently exercised sovereignty over them. The Knights might not qualify quite as a nation, but they did indeed govern Malta, and were apparently headquartered there.

11. Ruritania, Lower Slobovia, and Elbonia all had settlements in . . . . OK, I am making this up, but Courland is 100% legit.

11. Scotland had an ill-fated settlement in Darien (Panama) in the very late 1600s, and Nova Scotia was also a Scottish settlement; but by then, I don't think Scotland was truly independent, even though the Act of Union that officially joined the Parliaments of the countries wasn't enacted until 1707. I will therefore not claim Scotland here, though as we will see shortly, it will indeed appear as part of the answer.

So we have 10, not counting Scotland -- how do we get to 13? Well, one definition of the Western Hemisphere is the Americas together with their adjoining islands; but another is simply the half of the globe that reaches west from longitude 0 to longitude 180. We can thus look at Oceania, and see

11. Germany -- American Samoa (early 1900s).

But wait! Longitude 0 doesn't go through the mid-Atlantic; it goes through Greenwich, England (hence Greenwich Mean Time). Considerable chunks of Europe, West Africa, and Antarctica are thus in the Western Hemisphere, so this lets us include

12. Norway -- Jan Mayen Islands (west of Norway and north of Scotland), and a sector of Antarctica in the Western Hemisphere that Norway once claimed based on its Antarctic explorations in the early 1900s.

13. Brandenburg, a duchy in what is now Germany, which had trading forts in West Africa, in what is now Ghana and Mauritania. Query whether Brandenburg's possessions should be included alongside Germany's, partly because Brandenburg, together with Prussia, formed the kernel of the nation of Germany (which of course wasn't fully formed until the 1860s) -- Brandenburg contained Berlin. I have seen hints that Brandenburg might have had some outposts in the Caribbean as well, but nothing that I could confirm. (Some commenters noted that there was a brief German settlement in Venezuela, but I'm not sure whether it was indeed governed by a German state, or rather by the Spanish but with the German funders of the colony having a lot of flexibility under Spanish rule.)

We can also add to Portugal's (4) list Portuguese Guinea and the Azores, to Sweden's (7) and Denmark's (8) lists forts in Ghana, to Courland's (9) an island on the Gambia River, and to Germany's the territory of New Swabia in Antarctica, which Germany claimed in the late 1930s (though I doubt that this qualifies as "government"). (Naturally, there's also lots to be added to English and French possessions, and some to Spanish, but they are already way over the three possessions that I asked for.)

Now I hope that all this talk of obscure places in the North Atlantic, West Africa, and Antarctica has not distracted you from the other answers, which are of course:

14. Ireland -- Ireland governs, well, Ireland, which is entirely in the Western Hemisphere.

15. Italy, or rather a city-state in Italy that once got rather big for its britches -- Rome, whose empire extended to what is now Spain, Portugal, France, and England. (While we're at it, we can add France west of the 0th meridian to Germany's list.)

16. Scotland, when it was independent, was itself partly in the Western Hemisphere, though I'm pretty sure that they didn't think of it as the Western Hemisphere in those days. This, of course, reveals an esthetic flaw in the problem, since there were lots of European nations west of the 0th meridian in the past, in parts of England, France, Spain, and other places. So the list really could be very long indeed.

So there we have it -- some general knowledge (1-6, probably 7-8), some highly esoteric knowledge (9-10), and a trick that yields 11-16.

And now at your next cocktail party, you can stump everyone by asking about the little-known Latvian government of parts of the New World. Everyone, that is, who doesn't read this blog.

For the commenters' answers, see here.