A really lovely themeless today from veteran constructor Mr. Collins. I love the 11-stacks in the NW and SE, and the nines running down the NE and SW are strong too.
I was misdirected terribly in the NE, entering "spa" immediately at "12A: Whirlpool site" (TUB) (Hah!). And then when I checked the Down clues, I took out "spa" to enter "Nolan Ryan" at "12D: Hall-of-Fame pitcher who once struck out 10 consecutive batters" (TOMSEAVER). Turns out Ryan has twice struck out 8 in a row, but Seaver is, evidently, the only one to have K'd ten. Impressive, but damn their matching name lengths!
Amusing clues today included 7D: They operate around the clock (HANDS), 10D: Keystone enforcer (KOP) (Raise your hand if you dropped in "EPA"), 14D: Hides in a cabin, perhaps (BEARSKINS), and 13D: Labor party member's holding? (UNIONCARD). And I also enjoyed the misdirection of 49D: Bridge position (HELM) (not east or west).
In addition to the humor, there are interesting entries like SUCCOR, LAITY, and one of Frannie's favorite artists, James ENSOR. And all we have to put up with is a little RESHIPS, IMAS, TAS, ENT, and HULLO (49A: Greeting in Britain). That last one stumped me. I had all but the U, and did not know Harold UREY's name, so I guessed A. Then E, thinking it might be a fake misdirect, then just ran through all the other vowels. Honestly, I'm not sure I buy HULLO as valid, but a person's name is necessarily valid, I guess. I mean, shouldn't we all know the names of everyone involved in the Manhattan Project? :| To be somewhat more diplomatic, he did win a Nobel Prize for discovering an element, so I guess that's something.
My petulant protest aside, I found this an enjoyable and challenging Friday.
p.s. It's in the comments, but I feel I have to add here that on the edges of this puzzle Colum found Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh my!