13. Old buck: in other words a disreputable fellow SCRIP (sc. rip) A couple of minor obscurities to resolve here. ‘sc.’ (with a dot) is the abbreviation of scilicet, Latin for ‘namely’, and occasionally seen in place of ‘i.e.’. ‘Scrip’ in the sense of paper currency is also a slang term for a dollar bill.
17. Old-style footwear shone when reconditioned HOSEN (anag.) A simple enough anagram, but Dr Watson mistakenly assumed ‘shoen’ (it’s actually ‘shoon’) to be an old plural form of ‘shoe’, which held up progress in the northeast corner for a while.
23. Arches, among the characteristics of Greece? INSTEPS (in steps) ‘Greece’, rather naughtily given a capital G here, is not the country but one of twelve alternative spellings given in Chambers for ‘grece’, meaning a flight of steps, and found under the entry for ‘gree’. The connection to Greek arches is nicely exploited in the wordplay.
25. Waxy stuff to take over on the floor? CUTIN (cut in) Cutting in probably happens less (or less obviously) in the days of clubbing than it did in dancehall times. The solution is found under the entry for ‘cutis’ in Chambers.
26. Lands of poesy wherein Caffir roams (not very strong) AFRIC (anag. with f for ff) The wordplay use of ‘not very strong’ is clever, but in Dr Watson’s view the combination of ‘Caffir’ and Africa isn’t. Normally spelt with a K, this is a highly offensive term in S. Africa, and pretty objectionable elsewhere in the English-speaking world. One suspects that had it had the usual spelling it would have been flagged up by the Observer’s software before publication.
31. Lamb maybe sits easy in a stew ESSAYIST (anag.) Charles Lamb seems to be largely overlooked in literary references nowadays, but is still a staple of crosswords, thanks mainly to his grid-friendly alias ‘Elia’.
8. Take ill? Doctor enters RESENT (anag.) A very succinct combination of anagram and misleading definition.
11. Love in boarding house curtailed, making one glum PENSIEROSO (Eros in pensio(n)) And a great opportunity for a salacious surface reading readily grasped.
21. Highlight a double-headed coin ACCENT (a c-cent) ‘Double-headed’ is an ideal alternative in this context to the usual stammerer’s ‘c-coin’.
24. What’s downy after start of pogonotomy I fail to keep PILOSE (p + I lose) Given all the pseudo-technical terminology employed by the marketers of shaving equipment, it’s a wonder that a word as appealing as ‘pogonotomy’ isn’t in wider use. A great addition to Dr Watson’s vocabulary.
28. One heading left or right, we hear, for strong drink (beware second!) CYDER (‘sider’) The caveat at the end of this homophone clue enhances the surface reading, but more importantly protects the solver’s gooly at 30 across from embarrassment.
Across: 1. GLOBETROTTER; 9. ROSARIUM (anag. in roum); 12. INCOMERS (anag.); 14. GREENIE (g + reen + i.e.; see rhine in C.); 16. ZAMAN (ZA man!); 18. PLEBEAN ((peo)ple + bean; see plebeian); 20. QUIRT ((s)quirt); 21. ANNAL (an + an, rev. + L); 29. CROSSER (2 mngs.; i.e. zebra crossing); 30. GOOLY (go (p)oly); 33. SNUB NOSE (’uns + anag.; pug = pugilist/dog); 34. TRAINSPOTTER (trains potter).
Down: 1. GROSZ (gr. + s in oz); 2. LOW-CAL (w in local); 3. BANIA (n in (Mum)bai + a); 4. TINGUAITE (anag. in tinge); 5. RUC (cur, rev.; see roc); 6. TIME OUT (I’m E in tout (Fr.)); 7. ÉTRIER ((rop)e + trier); 10. SARMENTOSE (anag. + t in nose); 15. RUNNERS-UP (runners up; i.e. runner beans); 19. BAISAKI (anag. in bi(g)); 22. NURSER (anag.); 27. FOUNT (0 in fun + t); 30. INS (s to end in sin).