Infamous settler on Galveston Island 1817 / SAT 5-17-14 / Once common desert fighting force / Ballistic test units Abbr / Tommy of 1960s pop / Parlor with simulcasts / River crossed by ferry in 1965 Top Ten hit
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Constructor: Brad Wilber
Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: LAFITTE (18A: Infamous settler on Galveston Island, 1817) —
Jean Lafitte (c. 1776 – c. 1823) was a French pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his elder brother, Pierre, spelled their last name Laffite, but English-language documents of the time used "Lafitte". The latter has become the common spelling in the United States, including for places named for him.Lafitte is believed to have been born either in France or the French colony of Saint-Domingue. By 1805, he operated a warehouse in New Orleans to help disperse the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre Lafitte. After the United States government passed the Embargo Act of 1807, the Lafittes moved their operations to an island in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. By 1810, their new port was very successful; the Lafittes pursued a successful smuggling operation and also started to engage in piracy.Though Lafitte tried to warn Barataria of a British attack, the American authorities successfully invaded in 1814 and captured most of Lafitte's fleet. In return for a pardon, Lafitte helped General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British in 1815. The Lafittes became spies for the Spanish during the Mexican War of Independence and moved to Galveston Island, Texas, where they developed a pirate colony called Campeche.Lafitte continued attacking merchant ships as a pirate around Central American ports until he died around 1823 trying to capture Spanish vessels. Speculation about his life and death continues among historians. (wikipedia)
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CAMEL CAVALRY (7D: Once-common desert fighting force)—was stuff I instantly felt I *wanted* to know. I had to look up LAFITTE when I was done—fascinating. PAOLO VERONESE rings only a small bell, but "the largest painting in Louvre" is a clue-fact that makes me want to learn more. Brad is one of my favorite themeless constructors, in part because while we have similar tastes in puzzles/cluing, we have very different knowledge sets. No, let me refine that—he has many, many more knowledge sets than I do, so his puzzles often force me out of my comfort zones, but almost always in ways I enjoy.
Without much confidence, I threw down TONITE PLAT and AORTA, and they all ended up being right. Fortuitous. Got some of that corner, then got stuck, then finally got FAULT out of FA- and flew out of that corner. No hope in hell with FTLBS (one of those few "weak answers" I was talking about), but ALMAY swung me over into the NE. SPRY CRY WARY, 1 2 3. Had real trouble with SNEER AT, largely because the clue seemed like it could've meant a million things. I wasn't even sure it was a verb. [Cousin of a zombie] got me good. Made me pull DAIS because I was like "there are no equivalent monsters ending in 'I'." Gah! That's 'cause the zombie here is a drink, and its cousin is a MAI TAI. Had ACRIDITY for ACERBITY, but otherwise, that corner was not a problem. The SE, however, featured many problems. It didn't take me long, but it made me fall down a lot. GOT … ANGRY! IMP … ULSE! Gah and gah! Thank goodness I knew "Ferry Cross the MERSEY" (even if I did spell it with a "U" at first). Nice place to end it. This was just a joy. Brad's puzzles seem to appear in Newsday (as the Saturday Stumper) more than anywhere else. His name on any puzzle is always a welcome sight.
Here, I'll say one semi-negative thing about this puzzle: CAMERA TRIPOD feels a little redundant. Sorry, but between that and SNEERing AT FTLBS … that's all the criticism I got.
PS speaking of the Newsday Saturday Stumper, today's is by Doug Peterson and it's great so you should do it. Thanks.