For the second consecutive week we have a puzzle with a bit of an unusual grid. It’s slightly larger than normal (21x22 squares) and there are big swaths of black squares around the middle. There are also circled squares sprinkled throughout. 124A / 127A spell out the name of the game: [With 127 Across, what you must do alphabetically to reveal the 96 Across], which is CONNECT / THE DOTS. Draw the lines from A to Z (starting with the last letter in ARENA AT 25D), and you show the BAT SIGNAL (96A: [High light of action films?]).

And look, the signal summoned five Batman actors to the scene:

  • 23A: [He played this puzzle’s subject in 1989] is Michael KEATON, in the Batman film by the recently deceased Joel Schumacher. Keaton also played Batman in “Batman Returns,” but to save on space I just gave one year for actors who played him more than once.
  • 26A: [He played this puzzle’s subject in 1995] is Val KILMER, in “Batman Forever.” The less said about this movie the better.
  • 110A: [He played this puzzle’s subject in 2016] is Ben AFFLECK, in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” I never saw this one.
  • 113A: [He played this puzzle’s subject in 1997] is George CLOONEY, in “Batman & Robin.” Let’s not discuss this one either.
  • 119D: [He played this puzzle’s subject in 2005] is Christian BALE, in “Batman Begins.” My favorite of the referenced films here, although I have a major nostalgic soft spot for the 1989 one starring Keaton.

You may be wondering, “Where is Adam WEST?” I tried for a very long time to fit him into the grid. It seems like it should have been easy to put him and BALE in opposite corners somewhere, but it wasn’t to be. So, I did the next best thing: I put WEST in the first letters of the first four Across clues:

  • 1A: [Wedge-shaped mollusk]
  • 7A: [Entertaining Bernie]
  • 10A: [Sci-fi sound effect]
  • 13A: [Tough bounce for a shortstop to handle]

I mentioned in the Magazine’s print edition that this was a crossword constructor tribute puzzle. On one level it’s a tribute to Batman, but as good of a detective and solver of the Riddler’s puzzles as he is, I don’t think he builds crosswords. Instead, this is a tribute to Elizabeth C. Gorski, the prolific puzzle constructor who’s built hundreds, if not thousands, of crosswords in her career. Liz has made the post-solve connect-the-dots drawing an art form in many of her Sunday-sized grids. In fact, this puzzle itself is a riff on an old New York Times crossword of hers from 2010, titled “Fangs for the Memory,” in which you had to connect the dots alphabetically to form the shape of a bat. That theme was Halloween-related rather than Batman-related, but either way, making this puzzle gave me a much greater appreciation for how difficult it can be to work with scattered letters that have to be in specific places (and have to run in alphabetical order).

Once I discovered that I could used the Z-A-B dots to form the name ELIZABETH at 46A: (["Pride and Prejudice” protagonist Bennet]), I just had to do it. As far as I know, Liz isn’t Batman, but I imagine that her puzzle themes have inspired a whole generation of crossword constructors. She now has her own independent weekly puzzle called “Crossword Nation” and she’s part of the rotation of constructors over at the New Yorker — more avenues for solvers everywhere to appreciate her art.