Ooh, ooh! I do love me a fun Thursday puzzle, and this one is simply brilliant. Our daily readers know how much I abhor a circle in a grid. I don't want to be told so blatantly where the trick is. But today's circles make perfect sense.
The revealer comes at 64A: Recover ... or what 17-, 25-, 38- and 51-Across do? (BOUNCEBACK). It took me quite some time to get the first half of that answer, because I found the center S section to be the toughest of the whole puzzle. But once I did, I suddenly reimagined those circles as balls and watched them speed towards the left side of the puzzle, and then carom backwards towards the right.
And there are your answers! 17A: Fried Hanukkah treat (EKACNAPOTA) is now unfolded to make "potato pancake." Boy, as I filled in the NW corner (very easily with the gimmes ACAI, COCO, and JOKE), that first part of the answer made me second-guess myself. Where were the latkes? Even once I realized that "pancake" was backwards, I couldn't see how to get the potato in place.
I figured it out with ELUSPACE. How cool is that, to find s-p-a-c-e-c-a-p-s in the regular phrase "space capsule?" How about the beauty of NOTGNIHSAWALLAW, a 15-letter answer that NOONE has ever seen before (that's 0% of the population, for those of you counting out there!)? DAERBANA is not quite as amazing, but still, a fun set of answers for a theme that knocks it powerfully out of the park.
There's plenty of more fun in the fill. GAYRODEO is a wonderful answer, and one that was definitely inferable from the clue. ALTIMETERS is improved by the nice trivia in the clue.
In the NE, 10D: Made like a shark? (SHOTPOOL) and 11D: One seeking change (PANHANDLER) are a perfect side by side demonstration of the advantages of QMCs and non-QMCs. How about 59A: Bank security option? (LEVEE) - hah! That's great.
Well, I could go on and on, but enough's enough, and that's a WRAP.