DOUBLOON \dub.LOON\ n. an old Spanish gold coin used from the 16th to the 19th century
The first official doubloon, known in a few times and places as the DOBLON or DOBLA, was worth 2 ESCUDOS, or 32 REALES (the silver coins above).
Doubloons were not only used in Spain itself, but also in Spanish colonies throughout America. In fact, because of their gold content, these coins were accepted as unofficial currency in virtually any country in which Spanish trade took place.
Not surprisingly, many ships burgeoning with this valuable currency often became victims of piracy and shipwrecks. As a result, many of the famous stories you have read about pirates and sunken treasure involve wooden chests overflowing with gold doubloons…
Like many widely circulated coins (such as the THALERwe talked about a while back), the name ‘doubloon’ would soon be adopted by other non-Spanish countries.
One celebrated example is this Ecuadorian 8 Escudos doubloon…
This coin came to fame in Herman Melville‘s novel Moby-Dick, in which Captain Ahab nails one to the mast of the Pequod as an offering to the first person to capture the great whale. Apparently, NUMISMATISTS (they’re the people who study or collect coins) refer to this Ecuadorian doubloon as the ‘Moby-Dick Coin’.
Another coin of great renown in numismatic circles is this fellow, known as the Brasher Doubloon…
This coin is named after Ephraim Brasher, an 18th century New York State silversmith who minted the very first gold coins in America. With only seven Brasher Doubloons extant, you won’t believe what some people are prepared to pay for one…
RIATA /ree.AH.tuh/ n. a long rope of hemp or leather used to tether, or with a noose to catch, livestock
Today’s word comes to us from the days of early Spanish colonization. This can be seen in the original Spanish la reata (literally, the retying) which has morphed into REATA and LARIAT, in addition to today’s word. Even the much more common synonym, LASSO, comes from the Spanish lazo (a noose).
To emphasize its Hispanic origins, crossword constructors will often clue today’s word using another of similar cultural origin. Popular examples include GAUCHO (a cowboy of the South American pampas, often of mixed Spanish and native descent), VAQUERO (a cowboy or herdsman, especially in parts of Texas), HACIENDA (a large estate, in Spanish-speaking countries), and ESTANCIA (a cattle ranch, especially in Latin America).
Here is the image that will probably be conjured up for me when I next come across this word in a word game…
And speaking of word games, if you ever have these letters on your rack, remember you can also play TIARA (a jeweled headpiece), RAITA (an Indian vegetable dish), or ATRIA (pl. of ATRIUM, a courtyard area)
P.S. Collins/CSW/SOWPODS players also get to play the high-scoring LAZO (which is the original Spanish verb from which lasso derives) and another pair of anagrams of riata: AARTI (a ritual practiced on the Ganges) and TAIRA (a type of weasel found in South America).
OLLA /OL.uh or AW.lyah/ n. a ceramic pot used for cooking stews, storing and cooling food, and irrigation, especially in the American Southwest
Having been introduced into the American Southwest by the Spanish, clues for the olla will often play on this pedigree with Hispanic preceders like PUEBLO (a communal village), CASA (a house or mansion), or CANTINA (a bar).
Perhaps most frequently, clues will reference the stews and soup dishes for which this pot is widely used. The most important culinary dish to recognize is a Spanish meat and bean stew called olla podrida…
but you’ll also find references to other elements of Spanish cuisine, including PAELLA (a saffron-flavored seafood, chicken, and rice dish) and FRIJOLE (a large family of beans, including the PINTO bean, used in Mexican cookery).
Speaking of frijole, here’s a short video that not only shows you how to make an authentic Frijoles de la Olla, but also tells you how to pronounce it properly…
Let’s finish off with some practice. Find a four letter word that answers to each of the following clues…
See how kind this month’s Crosswordese theme has been to your morning solve?