It’s a veritable gold rush:
3 down: Lankiest one turned pure (5-4)
Not difficult, just an interesting anagram that got me thinking of El Greco’s paintings: lankiest one turned = lankiest i turned = saint-like = pure.
24 down: Spot beer stolen by a nut in pub (6)
Excellent use of words in the same semantic range: spot beer stolen by a nut = spot pot stolen by a loon = s by a loon = saloon = pub.
28 across: Fine detail gains city medal for 5-down (Cawley) before 4-down (marriage) (9)
The theme gave away what would have been an exceptionally difficult clue: fine detail gains city medal = good de-tail gains LA gong = Goolagong = Cawley before marriage.
6 across: Fifth flavour in gum amiss (5)
Do some research on umami because it’s fascinating to think that a fifth flavour had not been isolated for so long: in gum amiss = in gum amiss = umami = fifth flavour.
17 down: Could be electric energy plugging telecentre (3)
A great direct clue: energy plugging telecentre = e plugging el = eel = could be electric.
29 across: Athlete lost at wrestling girl (5)
Again, DA gets the words all within a semantic range: athlete lost at wrestling = athlete – at wrestling = Ethel = girl.
8 down: Can gawker lose head to sensational thing? (7)
I just like it when the answer is a word that has been formed as many other ordinary words are ordinarily formed, yet it’s a word that’s not ordinarily said: can gawker lose head = tin ogler lose head = tingler = sensational thing?
20 down: Fit prisoner to his rap sheet (7)
This is almost a three-way clue! There are not quite two direct definitions, the not-quite definition acting as the wordplay: prisoner to his rap sheet = con form = conform = fit.
23 down: Record lions mauling delta neighbour (7)
Excellent direct clue that had me thinking rivers instead of alphabets: record lions mauling = ep lions mauling = epsilon = delta neighbour.
31 across: Hand hammer to Spooner for 10-across (Rawlinson) before 4-down (marriage) (7)
In my opinion not the best Spooner, but a Spooner worth noting nonetheless: hand hammer to Spooner = mit pan to Spooner = Pittman = Rawlinson before marriage.
1 down: Boxer’s first contest in our pre-4-down (marriage) 30-across (Simpson), or… (Onassis) (7)
An excellent use of the ellipsis considering the relationship between the two clues: boxer’s first contest in our = b vie in our = Bouvier = pre-marriage Simpson or Onassis.
15 across: Cross the margins in 24-down (saloon) with pre-4-down (marriage)… (Packer) (6)
Everything links to everything else to give a well-constructed cross the margins in saloon = x the margins in bar = x te in bar = Baxter = pre-marriage Packer.
2 down: (Bouvier) … passions, throwing off top (7)
Again, excellent ellipsis: passions, throwing off top = ponassis off top = Onassis = Bouvier.
19 across: (Baxter) … holidaymaker in the making? (6)
Nice ellipsis again, and a nice double meaning: holidaymaker in the making = Packer = Baxter.
14 across: Chief Turk emir runs away from 4-down (marriage) wretched (3)
That emir follows chief Turk is an awesome red herring: emir runs away from marriage wretched = emir r away from marriage wretched = marriage – emirr wretched = aga = Chief Turk.
5 across: Kingdom between 1- and 2-down (Bouvier and Onassis) added up to plenty! (7)
How DA managed to get references to Bouvier, the Simpsons, Marge Simpson, Onassis and Kennedy all into the one crossword is beyond me. What’s also beyond me is a completely clean explanation for this clue, which is brilliant despite my explanatory deficits: added up to plenty = came lot = Camelot = Kingdom between Bouvier and Onassis.
Is that correct? Does the exclamation mark actually signify anything? Is there an &lit explanation that I’m missing?