March 11, 2022


Constructor: Amanda Rafkin

Editor: Amanda Rafkin

Theme Answers:
LEOPARD'S BANE (5D: Plant named after a big cat)
EMPEROR PENGUIN (12D: Antarctic bird with a regal name)
PRACTICAL JOKER (14D: Prankster)

Theme synopsis: The last word of each vertical theme answer is a GOTHAM VILLAIN, and a member of Batman's "rogues gallery": BANE, PENGUIN, and JOKER.

And now a word from our constructor:
Amanda: Trouble is brewing in Gotham City and chaos has descended upon the masses. Try as I might to keep order and symmetry in place, these DC baddies were having nothing to do with it! I placed a black square and the next thing I knew, POW, they kicked it somewhere else. Solve this puzzle and then check back tomorrow to see if you've succeeded in restoring order around these parts!

Things I learned:
  • APE (7D: Gorilla Grodd, e.g.) Gorilla Grodd is a DC Comics supervillain. He is an evil, super-intelligent APE. Although primarily an enemy of the Flash, Gorilla Grodd has battled Batman, so we're going to count it as a bonus answer (even though APE is at the top of the grid).
  • JILL (51A: Scott of "Black Lightning") JILL Scott plays the DC supervillainess Lady Eve in the TV series Black Lightning. Another bonus VILLAIN! I am familiar with JILL Scott, but did not know Black Lightning, a show based on the DC comics character for whom the series is named.
Random thoughts and interesting things:
  • ALDA (4A: Alan of "Marriage Story") Marriage Story is a 2019 movie about a married couple navigating a divorce. Alan ALDA played the ROLE of lawyer Bert Spitz.
  • ROLE (11A: Batman, for Michael Keaton, e.g.) Bonus answer! With all of these supervillains around, it's fortunate we at least have a reference to Batman to save the day. Michael Keaton played Batman in the movies Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). He will reprise the ROLE in the upcoming movies Batgirl (2022) and The Flash (2023).
  • I LOVE TRASH (16: Oscar the Grouch's signature song) As soon as
    I read this clue, I started singing, "Anything dirty or dingy or dusty..." Oscar's signature song, "I LOVE TRASH," is silly, and I like it very much! One of my favorite trivia facts is that Oscar the Grouch was originally orange, and did not become his characteristic green until the second season of Sesame Street.
  • TYPO (19A: There's one in thos sentence) and CLUES (47A: This puzzle has 76) I always enjoy clues for TYPO; constructors can have fun with them. (The clues are challenging to get past spell check though!) And, as I've mentioned before, I always enjoy self-referential CLUES.
  • LEOPARD'S BANE (5D: Plant named after a big cat) There are several different plants referred to as LEOPARD'S BANE; some have purple flowers, and some have yellow flowers. The GOTHAM VILLAIN hidden in this answer was the only one with which I was not familiar. BANE is a supervillain whose immense strength comes from a super-steroid called Venom. He's also highly intelligent, making him a considerable foe for Batman. BANE made his first comics appearance in 1993, which explains why he is new to me. I have not kept up with Batman, and my Batman knowledge stems from the comic books and animated cartoons of my childhood!
  • EMPEROR PENGUIN (12D: Antarctic bird with a regal name) Much of my knowledge about the EMPEROR PENGUIN comes from the 2005 documentary March of the Penguins. It's a beautiful movie. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it. The GOTHAM VILLAIN hiding here - PENGUIN - is one of the few Batman foes that is sane. Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot, aka the PENGUIN, is a crime boss whose nightclub, the Iceberg Lounge, serves as a front for his criminal activities.
  • PRACTICAL JOKER (14D: Prankster) Ah, the JOKER, Batman's archenemy. A homicidal maniac with a clown-like appearance, the JOKER is one of Batman's recurring foes.
  • ACH (21D: German exclamation hidden in "pita chips") ACH, someone ate my pita chips! Maybe it was one of the VILLAINS...
  • TESS (53D: Model Holliday) TESS Holliday is a model, author, and self-described "body-positive activist." She originated the hashtag #EffYourBeautyStandards after strangers left cruel comments on her Instagram account.
  • EAT (58D: Enjoy some shawarma) Shawarma is a dish in Middle Eastern CUISINE (42D: Style of cooking). It consists of thinly sliced meat stacked in a cone-like shape and roasted on a spit. Shawarma is a popular street food in some countries, including Egypt and Turkey.
  • GSA (59A: School grp. that might celebrate Pride Month) GSA stands for Gay-Straight Alliance, or Gender-Sexuality Alliance. These student-led groups provide a safe and supportive community for LGBTQ+ youth and allies.

    Geography review:

    • CAIRO (27A: Pyramids of Giza city) The Pyramids of Giza are located in Greater CAIRO, the metropolitan area of CAIRO, Egypt.
    • AUS (9D: Sydney's country (Abbr.)) Sydney is the most populous city in AUStralia, and is the capital of the state of New South Wales.
    • MST (54D: Sedona time zone (Abbr.)) Sedona, Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time (MST). Arizona doesn't observe Daylight Saving Time, so Sedona residents won't switch their clocks and "Spring Forward" on Sunday. Honestly, I'm a bit jealous!
    Someone shine the Bat-Signal, VILLAINS are running amok in GOTHAM City! In spite of the abundance of VILLAINS, this puzzle was a delight! I enjoyed all of the theme answers and the additional related theme content scattered throughout the puzzle. As Amanda noted in her comments, the grid is asymmetrical. I suppose that's to be expected; VILLAINS aren't known for following the rules. In addition to the answers I've already highlighted, I liked I LOST IT, HI-TOP FADES, LEGUMES, and MY TREAT. Will Batman be able to restore order, or are we DOOMED? This puzzle was a delightfully VILLAINous way to begin my Friday.