I was worried about this one. After my first pass on all the clues, I only had six or seven things filled in. Luckily, I had taken guesses on CARD (24D: Real character), PREEN (22D: Act the coxcomb (thank you Arshile Gorky! and your painting "The Liver is the Coxcomb")), and CAVEIN (9D: Spineless response to pressure), so when I came across 26A: Cackling loon with a white coat for the second time, I had just enough to realize that it would be MADSCIENTIST. From there, WORLDDOMINATION (36A: Goal for many a 26- or 43-Across) followed quickly, and once those two biggies were in, things started to fall into place. Whew! I didn't love the last theme answer SUPERVILLAIN (43A: Mighty heavy). I guess it's a little clever, but something about that clue just didn't seem perfect.
I guessed THE and NFL for 35A: With 40-Acorss, "Inside ____" (postgame show), even though I thought it would be odd for them to have this clue when it is so clearly not football season, but they just had a puzzle all about the 13 Colonies yesterday, which some people thought might have been better nearer to July 4th, so who knows? Neither 31:Stiff bristles (AWNS) nor 22D: ____ Matsuhisa, celebrity chef and restauranteur (NOBU) did anything to change my mind about NFL, but finally GRAPESHOT (23D: Small cannon balls) inflicted the necessary damage to my incorrect fill.
Lots of satisfying realizations when things finally got filled in - DIMENSION, SLEEPERCAR, FISHINGROD, ARTCRITIC, and the final piece to fall in for me on this one, EXILE (3D: Many a booted ruler). I enjoyed the combination of LEERAT (10D: Examine as a wolf would) and TENS (30D: Fox ratings). There wasn't too much objectionable, groanable stuff in here, and even AERIE, a nest frequently built into crossword grids, got the nice, tricky clue, 16A: Cliff hanger?. I like to think that 1A: Verbal shrug, MEH, is a nod to The Simpsons, but then, I think a lot of stuff relates to that show.