Frannie has an aversion to circles, and today I agree with her. I guess it's cool that the symmetrical groups of four circles all contain words that can precede "box," but the revealer, WHATSINTHEBOXES (37A: Question asked by a customs officer or a kid on Christmas … with a hint to this puzzle's circled squares) just seems a little off. Also, what's a "salt box?" Is that a common phrase?
Some of the longer stuff is quite good - WATERSNAKE (21A: Cottonmouth, e.g.), STRADDLED (27A: Was on both sides of), and FIRSTLIGHT (57A: Dawn) were nice. And I liked TUSSLE (51D: Shoving match) and SMILED (2D: Heeded the photographer, say) too. But PEDROS (53D: Three-time Cy Young winner Martinez, and others), OTIC (42D: Ear-related), ISNO and ISON… not so great.
That SW corner was a real mess for a while. It's lucky we just saw Sammy FAIN (57D: "April Love" composer Sammy) last Friday, otherwise I would have been in real trouble down there. Still, I'm hoping that Mr. Shortz isn't trying to wedge that in as a regular name. It definitely seems more Friday than Wednesday. The same goes for MASAI (62A: Seminomadic Kenyan). Yikes!
Not a bad Wednesday, but not up to the standard of the last two days, I didn't think.
It took me quite awhile to get the middle north filled in (PAPAL, PAWS and WERE) for some reason. Other than that this puzzle went quickly. TENSILE and POTATO were nice words to have in the grid, as was the blue entry, already mentioned above by Horace: STRADDLED. I was unaware that TSAR was 64A Title derived from the name "Caesar," but it now seems obvious! I thought that the theme was fine, but I have no real aversion as yet to circles. A saltbox is just a house style. I had to guess on the first "A" in MASAI since Mr. FAIN was unknown to me, but I guessed correctly, saving me from a DNF.