3972 Unusual by Mr Lemon

This week’s puzzle from Mr Lemon was at the easier end of the Listener range. Extra letters in the wordplay of the Across clues spelt out A BIRD GUIDE EUROPEAN, revealing an avian theme. The clashing letters from the Down answers, taken in order of the intersecting Across entries, spelt out RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL. Similarly, the clashing letters from the Across answers, taken in order of the intersecting Down entries, spelt out THRUSH ROBIN SPARROW. We were asked to leave the unusual in the grid, while allowing the commonplace to slip away. Therefore, the letters of RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL, an uncommon visitor to Europe, had to appear in the final grid. Gregson wondered if the puzzle might have been inspired by a sighting near Mr Lemon’s home. The perfectly Ximenean grid had 36 lights, using all clue numbers from 1 to 36, a construction which some might regard as “unusual”.

Extra letters in wordplay are indicated by [].

ACROSS
1 Explains away defeat in time getting so extremely short (11, two words)
[A]GLOSSES OVER LOSS (defeat) in AGE (time) + SO + VER(Y) (ie extremely, minus last letter)
11 Magistrate swaps uranium for a bit of erbium in chemical compound (6)
TRI[B]ENE TRIBUNE (Magistrate) exchanging U (uranium) for E (first letter of ERBIUM)
12 Food and bird missing with girl (5)
KA[I]REN KAI (Food) + WREN (bird), less W (with)
14 God injured tailless demon (4)
RAHU[R] RA (God) + HUR(T) (injured, tailless)
15 Fish officer may be expected to ... (5)
SHA[D]LT SHAD (Fish) + LT (lieutenant ie officer)
16 ... come out around French department after cutting gemstone for Edmund (8)
EMER[G]AUDE EMERGE (come out) containing AUD(E) (French department, after cutting)
Aude being one of the most southerly departments of France
18 Rake author treated in boiled oil (8)
LOTHAR[U]IO OTHARU (anagram of AUTHOR) inside LIO (anagram of OIL)
20 Ascend from feast in centre of quod (4)
UP[I]GO PIG (feast) inside UO (middle letters of QUOD)
22 The German pinches Estonian book (6)
[D]ESTHER DER (German word for “the”) containing ESTH (Estonian)
23 Standard operating procedure sore disturbed deep sleeps (6)
SOPORS[E] SOP (Standard operating procedure) + ORSE (anagram of SORE)
25 Oil rear part of foot and front of hoof (4)
OTTO[E] OT (last two letters of FOOT) + TOE (front part of hoof)
26 Curly and round shaped like the ball in a joint (8)
CONDYLAR[U] Anagram of CURLY AND
30 Pern sadly trapped in benign device for catching insects (8)
SWEEPN[R]ET PNRE (anagram of PERN) inside SWEET (benign)
32 Slightly crazy means of escape by most of you (5)
LOOPY[O] LOOP (means of escape) + YO (most of YOU)
33 Casual professional returns to Argentina (4)
OR[P]RA PRO (professional), reversed + RA (Argentina)
34 Hole drilled to get a variable mineral (5)
BOR[E]AX  BORE (Hole drilled) + A + X (variable)
35 Couple needing help over first fold in rock (6)
DIAP[A]IR PAIR (couple) with AID (help), reversed and in front
36 Absurd canniness with only tailless stray (11)
NONSENSICAL[N] Anagram of CANNINESS ONL(Y)

DOWN
2 Glows and glows without a hint of guttering (5)
LEAMS GLEAMS (glows) minus G (first letter of GUTTERING)
3 Seaweeds sheltering fine fish (5)
ORFES ORES (Seaweeds) containing F (fine)
4 Cultivate dog-parsley avoiding what would make gross floral transformation (8)
SEPALODY Anagram of DOG-PARSLEY, less anagram of GR (gross)
5 Reformed lag - one Will's put inside (6)
ENGAOL Anagram of LAG ONE
6 Tear apart from either end (4)
REND Consecutive letters of eitheR END
7 Appraiser falsifying labour plus VAT, with no book entry (8)
VALUATOR Anagram of LABOUR + VAT, less B (book)
8 Space to put in knife for cheese (4)
EDAM EM (Space) containing DA (knife)
9 Alteration and first of bowling changes - right in front of one's eyes! (11)
ANTEORBITAL Anagram of ALTERATION + B (first letter of BOWLING)
10 Dark spruce curl in ordered fashion round peak of Annapurna (11)
CREPUSCULAR Anagram of SPRUCE CURL, containing A (first letter of ANNAPURNA)
The use of “peak” to indicate the first letter is justified by this being a Down clue
13 Young pig eats one Scots raptor (6)
ELANET ELT (young pig) containing ANE (Scots word for “one”)
17 Poet's mad friend pockets round gem (8, two words)
WOOD OPAL WOOD (Shakespearian word for “mad”) + PAL (friend), all containing O (round)
19 Boosting kinetic energy in Europe has engineered brilliant discoveries (8)
HEUREKAS KE reversed vertically ie “boosted”, inside HEURAS (anagram of EUR ie Europe + HAS)
21 Religious sorcery changing Eve's heart into a thousand antelope (6)
KOODOO VOODOO (Religious sorcery) with V (middle letter of Eve) replaced by K (a thousand)
24 One son of Jacob has ninety young fish (6)
ALEVIN A (One) + LEVI (son of Jacob) + N (ninety)
27 Dido's not in favour of taking capital to Carthage (5)
ANTIC ANTI (not in favour of) + C (first letter of CARTHAGE)
28 Eric refined a metallic oxide (5)
CERIA Anagram of ERIC, + A
29 Queen's cross about nothing (4)
ZERO ER (Queen) inside ZO (cross)
31 Rude rogue pointed (4)
URDE Anagram of RUDE