My favorite things to find in a themed puzzle are anagrams, circles and...palindromes! My first thought, upon seeing what we had in today's puzzle, was that it would be really easy. Once you had a letter in place, you knew how to fill in another square in the grid. That worked with a few of them, but the first one escaped me for far too long.
17A: Palindromic thought about preparing to pay down massive debt (must save vast sum). I'll get to the difficulties after the theme answers.
24A: With 47-Across, palindromic Senate worker looks with amazement upon job payment inconsistency (page gawks at / task wage gap).
61A: Palindromic plan for freshening part of a lab (aerate pipet area). This was my favorite, partly because we had pipet just the other day.
I struggled with most everything in the northwest. I did know 4D: Preceders of spikes in volleyball (sets), but that was about it. Once I guessed 19A: It might set off a light (sensor) , I proceeded to 3D: A.A.A. member?: Abbr. (Assn.)...just seeing the cleverness of that clue now. My original answer for 1A: Eventful times (eras) was correct, although I must have erased it three times.
More difficulties in the northeast. I will never again forget 9A: Prince Valiant's wife (Aleta)...I think we've seen her before, and I'm quite sure we will yet again. Didn't have a clue what they wanted in 16A: Intoxicate (besot). Eventually got the aha moment and realized the answer to 9D: Like some ballots (absentee), giving me 40A: Group-mailing aid (E-list), which for many minutes was missing its first letter.
Struggled briefly with 36A: 1960s singer Terrell (Tammi) because I was putting the accent on the first syllable, and that name didn't ring a bell. Once I figured out how to pronounce it, I was set. Wasn't sure if it ended in a Y or I, though, but a quick check of 37D: "Really?" confirmed it. Is that so? Loved that it crossed at its first S with 41A: "Um...sure" (I guess).
Also liked the cross of 20A: Extra winning opportunities (side bets) and 18D: Play to __ (a draw). Don supplied those two answers...I was getting pretty sleepy.
I'm sure I'll smack myself when someone explains this one...38A: It has M.S.G. in it (NYC). I do not have a clue.
Didn't get 52A: Completely (from A to Z) until I got the Z in place from 55D: Fan's publication (zine).
My first answer for 65A: Role played in films by Chief Thundercloud (Tonto) also got erased a couple of times. I knew that Jay Silverheels played Tonto in the TV series, but it never occured to me that someone else played him in films.
And I can hardly keep my eyes open any more, so I'll wrap it up. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.