1. A makeshift TIMENOPENNY (TIMENOGUY) The definition-only clue that illustrates the ‘Penny for the Guy’ theme. The competition word has a good range of meanings for the clue-writer.
13. Unchanged, that is after complaint is rebuffed NAOMIE (moan, rev. + i.e.; SAME) One of several clues where the solution involves almost complete replacement of the word indicated by the definition, leaving the solver with a lot of (optional) guesswork.
14. Country fellow accompanied by a lady MUNA (mun2 a; MADAM) Dr Watson didn’t identify this as a thematic clue until after the puzzle was completed, assuming Muna would be a name or a word meaning ‘lady’, and 1 across counted as one of the 18 thematic clues.
16. Swans turning muter alongside one on board ship TRUMESMES (anag. + me in SS; TRUMPETERS) The most satisfying of the thematic clues in Dr Watson’s view. ‘One’ for ‘me’ is a little rarefied, but quite solvable.
27. Long and pointed, growing out round head of stalk ENSATE (s in enate) The last clue Dr Watson solved. With seventeen full thematic clues accounted for, it wasn’t clear if this or 1 across would be the eighteenth. The botanical sense of the word is nicely carried into the wordplay.
28. One in Erebus set free to maltreat again. REABUSE (a in anag.) The word formed with a common prefix, mentioned in the footnote.
33. Little bird succeeded with prickly plant? No go SERIN (s. + erin(go)) Another grid entry containing a girl’s name (Erin) that might lead solvers to look for a thematic solution.
35. Nine’s silly under canvas? It’ll divide court TENNIS NET (anag. in tent) And here is the familiar compound. ‘Under canvas’ is a good way of indicating something inside ‘tent’, analogous to ‘tucked up’ for something in ‘bed’, etc.
36. Lord reared Japanese fish for the table AROSEAI (arose ai (see ayu); ADONAI) The addition of ‘for the table’ in the indication of ‘ai’ sent Dr Watson in search of tables with boy’s names in. ‘Bradshaw’, the railway timetable, looked a distinct possibility with S_A_ in place at the end.
38. First half of bread’s gone? Only a fifth of a quarter NICKEL ((pumper)nickel) Seeing the unchanged ‘Nick’ in the solution led Dr Watson to wonder if the theme was more complicated than it first appeared, but otherwise this was Dr Watson’s favourite of the normal clues.
40. Has let stays burst? Very funny HYSTTESSAAL (anag.; HYSTERICAL) It was unpicking this anagram, along with 25 down, that gave Dr Watson the first hint of what the theme might be.
1. Collection of tips dropping? Reverse of that, the writer’s included TAMYCS (my in scat3, rev.; TRONCS) One of the harder thematic clues to completely solve. One could argue that a tronc singular is a collection of tips, and so the clue should have ‘collections’.
6. Marge? Love her, (not good but independent) OMARIE (0 + marge with I for g; OLEO) This wasn’t too hard to solve once the significance of the italicised ‘her’ became apparent. It’s a clue where the defined solution was more difficult to find than the grid entry. Dr Watson spent a while trying to justify OLEANDER.
8. Hookahs are mostly full-flavoured in North America NARERICA (are ric(h) in NA; NARGILES (see narghile)) A lovely substitution, though NARERICA is so close to ‘N. America’ that the wordplay is elusive.
9. Interference I detected in one interfering NOISE (I in nose) This looks a tidy clue, but Dr Watson’s not entirely convinced by ‘nose’. Chambers only gives ‘nosy’ as a noun meaning an interfering person.
21. By obligation, is unable to stand around HATTIEES (tie in hates; TIMES) It wasn’t clear for a long time what the original solution was here, though ‘by’ appeared to be the definition. SIDES was a remote possibility (as e.g. side-road and by-road are synonymous) and Hattie makes a very suitable replacement for Sid. But TIMES, in the multiplication sense, is the most plausible solution.
24. Squiggly pattern moving over an old wall? REPTANT (anag.) Chambers indicates the solution, which isn’t obsolete, refers to movement along a smooth wall, but not necessarily an old one.
25. Little girl in chair requiring condiment SEA SALT (Sal in seat) Drawing attention to the girl’s name in the solution could cause solvers a bit of thematic confusion, but it’s probably fair game.
29. Core of enemy explosive meeting shoulder of bastion EHEBEE ((en)e(my) + HE + bee; EPAULE) The definition of ‘epaule’ is straight from Chambers, but ‘meeting’ for ‘bee’ is quite misleading, and with its two consonants unchecked the grid entry is hard to pin down.
34. Hungarian girl having little latitude in island ILONA (l in Iona) Another girl’s name that may compound doubts over the theme. This one can be found in Chambers’ appendix.
Across: 12. ANAPAMY (a + map, rev., all in any; ANATOMY); 15. PORISMS (0 in prisms); 17. CADIZ (cadi + Z); 18. SOREDIA (sore + aid, rev.); 19. SLEAHET (anag.; SCARLET); 22. TILING (hidden); 31. PGRETAE (erg, rev., in anag.; PROBE); 37. SHOE ((m)o(ds) in she); 39. SENDENA (end in sena; SENDAL).
Down: 2. INULA (U in inla(y)); 3. MANNDERS (d. in manners; MALANDERS); 4. EPAXIAL (ax I in l ape, rev.); 5. NANTZ (ant in NZ); 7. ENOMOTY (’ot in anag.); 10. LIMEINES (i’ ME in lines; LIMERICK); 11. MESSAGE (mess age); 18. STYRE (hidden); 20. LINGERIE (ling Erie); 13. INURTHEA (I + anag.; INURNED); 26. VBESSDS (v. + s,s in beds; VIANDS); 30. ENSEAL (E in anag.); 32. ENSKY (first letters); 33. STUNS (t in suns).