In Batman: The Animated Series the Riddler is the main villain of three episodes of the series: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?, What is Reality? and Riddler’s Reform. In each episode, the Riddler poses a collection of clues that Batman and Robin have to decipher.
In this post I am looking at the Riddler’s riddles – setting out what riddles are presented in each episode and how they are solved.
If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich? introduces Edward Nygma (aka the Riddler) to Gotham City. In this episode, Nygma is a computer programmer, who invents a game called Riddle of the Minotaur.
Although the game is Nygma’s creation, it is owned by his employer, Daniel Mockridge, the owner of Competitron. Mockridge is not keen on sharing any of the game’s royalties with Nygma, so promptly fires him.
Two years later, Nygma kidnaps Mockridge, leading Batman and Robin to become involved in the case. This results in Nygma leaving the Dynamic Duo two riddles, which lead them to take part in a real-life game of Riddle of the Minotaur.
The first riddle in If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich? is as follows: Why do multimillion dollar deals break down in the wasteland?
The solution to the riddle is a location. The Wasteland is the name of a club owned by Daniel Mockridge. It is also a dead end in Riddle of the Minotaur.
This leads Batman to deduce that Mockridge will encounter a trap at his club – which he does. It is in The Wasteland that Nygma kidnaps his former boss.
The second riddle that Nygma poses is designed to lead Batman and Robin to Mockridge’s location. The riddle is as follows: When is the Minotaur’s owner as high as an elephant’s eye?
The solution lies in a lyric to the song ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Morning’, from the musical Oklahoma. In the song, the lyric goes as follows: The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye.
Batman deduces that the answer to the riddle is ‘corn’ – and another word for corn is maize, or in this case maze. Mockridge is being held captive in a real-life recreation of the game, which is set out like a maze.
Batman and Robin arrive at the game, and work their way through the maze. Here they encounter a number of riddles which they must solve in order to progress.
One of the riddles asks the question: Which way to the eating place? The Dynamic Duo are given the option to move left or right. The riddle is written in Arabic, which is itself a clue to the solution.
The solution is to go right. In Arab culture, people eat with their right hand, so going right is the answer.
The next riddle sees Batman and Robin given three keys in order to open a door. Each key is marked up with a letter: A, C and D.
The keys refer to musical pitch. When the keys are turned, key D releases two blades because in music D has two sharps. A releases three blades because A has three sharps. C does not release any blades as C has no sharps – meaning C is the correct key to open the door.
Before reaching the centre of the maze, one more puzzle is presented: What is the shortest distance on a globe? A straight line, a curved line, or a zigzag line?
Although a straight line is often regarded as the shortest distance, on a globe the shortest line is a curve.
Once Batman and Robin reach the centre of the maze, they are presented with one final riddle: “I have billions of eyes, yet I live in darkness; I have millions of ears, yet only four lobes; I have no muscle, yet I rule two hemispheres – what am I?”
The answer is the human brain, which has billions of optic and auditory nerves, four lobes and two hemispheres.
Batman solves the riddle, but Nygma escapes.
What is Reality?
The Riddler makes his next appearance in the episode What is Reality? In this story, Nygma creates a virtual reality programme which he uses to trap Commissioner Gordon. Batman and Robin have to enter the programme in order to save Gordon and stop Nygma.
In What is Reality?, Nygma poses three initial riddles:
- Where does a five hundred pound gorilla sleep?
- What’s worse than a millipede with flat feet?
- How do you get five elephants into a compact car?
The solutions are as follows:
- Anywhere it wants to.
- A giraffe with a sore throat.
- Two in the front, two in the back, and one in the trunk.
Each riddle involves a number: 500, 1000, 5. These numbers are converted into Roman numerals, giving the letters D M V – which is an abbreviation for the Department of Motor Vehicles.
At the DMV, Batman is presented with another riddle: “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no tales. It all makes sense when you add it up.” In addition to the riddle, Batman is given five coins: Four quarters and a penny.
The solution is a location: Police Headquarters Room 101.
So, how does Batman arrive at this solution?
A penny is another name for a copper, and another name for a copper is a police man.
In the Riddler’s clue he said: “I’ll tell you no tales”. No tales (or no tails) is in reference to a coin. No tails, means heads. And as there are four quarters Batman deduces that this means ‘head-quarters’.
“It all makes sense when you add it up” refers to the value of the coins, which is 101.
Putting the solutions together: Police + Headquarters + 101 = Police Headquarters Room 101, which is the location of the virtual reality programme.
Upon entering the programme, the Dynamic Duo are presented with more riddles.
The first: “One door leads to a plain, where kings and queens contend.”
The solution is a chess board, which is hidden behind a door marked 4096. The solution lies in the number.
Kings and queens contend on a chess board, which contains 64 squares. 64 squared = 4096.
Upon entering the room, Batman finds himself stood on a chess board, where he is presented with another riddle: “Move according to the rules or it is the end of the day.”
The solution is that Batman, aka the Dark Knight, has to move like a knight. A wrong move would mean the end of the game for Batman – or ‘knight fall’.
Once Batman completes Nygma’s riddles, he is able free Commissioner Gordon from the virtual reality programme. But Nygma leaves one final riddle, to lead Batman to his own location.
The riddle: “If the planet were equitable, I’d still have my old job.”
The solution is derived from breaking down the sentence into alternate choices of phrase: ‘If the planet were equitable’ becomes ‘if the world’s fair’ and ‘I’d still have my old job’ becomes ‘I would still have my ex-position’.
Abbreviating these clues creates ‘World’s Fair Exposition’. This is the Riddler’s location.
In Riddler’s Reform, Nygma is released from Arkham Asylum. Now a free man, he claims to have gone straight by moving into the toy business, but throughout the episode Nygma toys with Batman, by living hidden riddles.
At the beginning of the episode, the Riddler poses his first hidden riddle: “I know what you’re thinking, but those silly riddle crimes are a thing of the past. Ancient history that’s gone now – I’m a new man. But you probably won’t figure that out until it is too late.”
This riddle is Nygma’s way of telling Batman he intends to commit a crime, but by the time Batman realises it, it will have already happened.
The riddle refers to ‘ancient history’ and being ‘a new man’. The crime takes place at an antiques store called R. Newman.
The next riddle that Nygma poses begins with a map. Nygma turns over the map and writes down a number: 31753701.
Although the number appears on screen as 31753701, because the map is flipped over the number must also be flipped over, revealing the name: 10 Leslie (an address – 10 Leslie Avenue).
Riddler’s final riddle is delivered in a toy commercial. Nygma says: “Go back to where it all started, with toys. Come on – be a kid again.”
The solution is a location – a place where toys begin. The location is the Gotham Convention Centre, which is hosting the 4th Annual Toy Fair.
Although Batman solves the riddle, Nygma is not at the Toy Fair. He views this as his final riddle, so uses the location to set a trap to kill Batman once and for all. But Batman foils his plan and exposes Nygma as a fraud, sending him back to Arkham Asylum in the process.
Across the course of these three episodes, Edward Nygma is given an interesting story arc which sees him transform from a computer programmer to the Prince of Puzzles. He also gets to unveil some truly imaginative riddles that test the knowledge of Batman.
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