Well, this was a welcome respite from the last three days of so-so puzzles. I had a sense that something was "up" when I got to 16A: Scarlatti's style and couldn't figure out what they were looking for. Especially since I was pretty sure 10D: ___ nova was BOSSA.
In the end, I didn't figure out the theme until I'd gotten the revealer (RAISEDTHEBAR). I love that. It's a clever theme and a nice genuine phrase that explains it. Once that showed up, I went around to the places that didn't make sense and filled in the BAR above each answer. Obviously [BAR]OQUE is my favorite, but [BAR]TSIMPSON is excellent for the use of his entire name. [BAR]RIERREEF leaves a wonderfully peculiar collection of letters at 36A. [BAR]BIES is the least interesting. I should also mention that four of the five words with the raised "bar" are nicely done: BARK, BARGE, BARE, and BARNSTORM, while the last, BARO, is just meh.
So that's a fair amount of theme material, all symmetrically placed (with respect to the answers below the "bar"). The exchange is really not too bad in terms of fill. AQI stands out as a "huh?" answer. The NW is filled with GAELIC (24D) terms and the unlikable ABBR, but it does have EGGO as well, and that's a winner. In the proper names dept. we have ERTE, REZA, ELIE, and ERNST, none of which are very aesthetic, but we also get AESOP (with the nice clue "Moral authority?).
Some words I don't particularly like are DEBTEE, which I presume is acceptable but never used except in legalese; CORING, which just seems like a stretch; THEFORE (5D: A place of prominence), which I've only heard in the setting of "to the fore"; and AXEHEAD (45D: Business end of a chopper), which, again, is truly what it's called, but seems awkward.
Words I did like include MRSDASH, REELECT, BARNSTORM, and EARTHSIGN. I liked the clue for 47A: Exclamation that's made up of two shorter exclamations (AHOY). Otherwise not too many interesting clues.
Well. After looking it all over, perhaps not as good a puzzle as I'd thought. But I liked the theme, and so I'll give it a thumbs up overall.
I, too, knew something was up early on. I was certain of "Perpetual 10-year old of TV," and I started by trying a "BAR" rebus, but that didn't work with the others, obviously, and it was the revealer that gave it to me, too. It's rare, but nice when that happens. The system works!
I tried bORING for CORING, and EnACTS for EXACTS, and those two crosses were slow to correct themselves. I actually left the N in place and finished with AnEHEAD, so, FWOE, but was corrected quickly.
I like a trick on Thursday, and I hadn't seen this exact one before, so I agree with the thumbs up.
Thumbs up here, too. Nice review, Colum, since I agree with all of it today. Well, maybe I don't agree with your favorite (though I do concede that it may be your favorite) theme answer selection. I liked [BAR]RELOFMONKEYS the best. I put in EnACTS first instead of EXACTS, like Horace, but noticed before finishing that AnEHEAD didn't work too well. I liked the clue for ADMEN (51D Darrin Stephens's co-workers on "Bewitched"), although I think that the name of the show wasn't necessary; it was refreshing to not have to hear again about the show that has now just ended that I refuse to watch.