Whirly-Birly by Sabre
 
This week Sabre gave us a puzzle which, although not too difficult, needed a methodical approach. The thematic entries turned out to be alcoholic drinks, two of which appeared in plain text in the grid (RESINATA and KIR), and there was just enough information provided by the non-thematic clues to allow the coding scheme, and the remaining entries, to be deduced a little at a time. After finishing, Gregson poured a glass of something in celebration of a fine puzzle, though it was not one of the drinks which Sabre offered us.

In encoded entries, A to Z had to be replaced by ETKVR**PA*FXYGBLHIUSDMN*OC, where * indicates a letter that was not used.

Grid entries are indicated by [].

Across
1 Thematic (12)
KIRSCHWASSER [FAIUKPNEUURI]
13 Powerful woman: Delilah loses each time (7)
EMPRESS TEMPTRESS (Delilah), less both instances of T (time)
14 Rear entrances of old depot emerge in GI's shop (5)
PODEX [PXDOE] First letters of Old Depot Emerge in PX (GI’s shop)
15 Thematic (8)
RESINATA
16 Sandy areas, Arabian, say (4)
AREG AR (Arabian) + EG (say)
17 You mind me turning this silvery-grey at 60! (9)
NEODYMIUM Anagram of YOU MIND ME
19 Wife has Italian ingenuity (3)
WIT [NAS] W (Wife) + IT (Italian)
20 Contrary girl's brother beginning to blossom (7)
MARYBUD [YRUBAMD] MARY (Contrary girl) + BUD (brother)
22 Thematic (5)
POMBE [LBYTR]
23 Thematic (12)
BRANDY-PAWNEE [TIEGVOLENGRR]
26 Liquid is conveyed in fancy lead bin (12)
INDISPUTABLE IS + PUT (conveyed) inside INDABLE (anagram of LEAD BIN)
27 Tired expressions men found around China (5)
HECHS [CHSEH] HES (men) containing CH (China)
28 Thematic (7)
QUETSCH [HDRSUKP]
31 Thematic (3)
KIR
32 Unusually close to hysteria, cries in a rage (9, two words)
RAISE CAIN Anagram of A (last letter of HYSTERIA) + CRIES IN A
34 Thematic (4)
PORT [LBIS]
35 Highlander deposited money in kitchen utensil (8)
PLAIDMAN LAID (deposited) + M (money) inside PAN (kitchen utensil)
37 First-born's regularly weeing in bed (5)
EIGNE Alternate letters of wEeInG iN bEd
38 Tea's arranged by Ms Widdecombe - the Pope's due (7)
ANNATES [EGGESRU] ATES (anagram of TEAS) after ANN (Ms Widdicombe)
39 Unusually strong suit - East's feeling the strain (12, two words)
STRESSING OUT Anagram of STRONG SUIT E )East) ’S
 
Down
1 They may be tiny freckles? (12)
FERNYTICKLES Anagram of TINY FRECKLES, &lit
2 Ruler, a timeless measuring device (5)
AMEER A + METER (measuring device), less T (time)
3 By itself, it puts student off at first (4)
IPSO First letters of It Puts Student Off
4 Canton, part of Zurich (3)
URI Hidden in zURIch
5 Country - important area round source of Nile? (5)
KENYA KEY (important) + A (area) containing N (first letter of NILE) semi &lit
6 They're sand-loving palms, special leaves: ship some over (12)
PSAMMOPHILES Anagram of PALMS + SHIP + SOME less S (special)
7 Boss sounds to be ill - one's flown from yacht (12)
STUDDINGSAIL [NSTIDLUDSAGI] STUD (Boss) + DINGS (sounds) + AIL (to be ill)
8 Military decoration man gets in terms of the peace pact (7)
EPAULET PAUL (man) inside EET (last letters of thE peacE pacT)
9 Thematic (9)
SLIVOWITZ [UXAMBNASC]
10 Thematic (8)
BURGUNDY [UDRNYGBU]
11 Property dealer, this American on singer's right (7)
REALTOR [ROEATRL] RE (on) + ALTO (singer)  R (right)
‘s being “has” in the cryptic reading
12 Soup dishes contain catmint and Greek vegetables (12, two words)
TURNIP GREENS [IEGSRREPNNUT] TUREENS (Soup dishes) containing NIT (catmint) and GR (Greek)
18 Bird's gene alters pedigrees (9)
BREEDINGS [DBGIERSNE] Anagram of BIRD’S GENE
21 Thematic (8)
SAUTERNE [UEDSRIGR]
24 Hold back in greeting young woman (7)
INHIBIT IN + HI (greeting) + BIT (young woman)
25 Tops of some privates' sleeves have ragged chevrons (7)
V-SHAPES Anagram of SPS (first letters of Some Privates’ Sleeves) + HAVE
29 Where ignorant displays prevail (5)
REIGN Hidden in wheRE IGNorant
30 Weeps about independence in research (5)
CRIES [KIARU] C (about) + I (independence) inside RES (research)
33 Muscle relaxant prophetic book is written about (4)
SOMA [AMSO] AMOS (prophetic book), reversed
36 Pike in whirling eddy (3)
GED [DEG] Hidden in whirlinG EDdy