This puzzle suited me to a T. Well, most of it, anyway. I glommed on to the trick pretty quickly at the top of the northeast. I wanted "Leave this to me" (8D) to be ONIT, but that wouldn't fit. When the next clue (9D) was "Religious group," which had to be SECT, I realized we solvers were supposed to use the four T's formed by the black squares in the grid as part of each answer that abutted them, [T]OSTAR[T], at the end, or both. Getting a free letter - and in some cases two - for 36 answers made ALO[T] of it seem easy.
But, I got mighT stuck in the northwest. There was so much I didn't know in that corner, starting with the word BROODER as a heated house for chicks, I've never heard of BHAJIS (Spicy Indian fritters), despite a love of Indian food. (I looked them up just now, and according to the Wikipedia, outside of certain Indian states, they are known as pakora, which, I *have* heard of. Mmmm, pakora.) The Downs were no help. It took me forever to settle on SETTEES for "Couches" - good one, though. Both PRELUDE and CORONET eluded me. Eventually, the hint in 22A: "Spanish boy's name related to the sixth month of the year" was sufficient to give me JUNO[T], and then flash of insight gave me IDES[T] for "Clarifying phrase." [T]RUEDA[T].
Anyhoo, I've gone on about that [T]OULON. Let's get to the fun part. In addition to the sort of metasolve, I enjoyed many clues and answers including:
"They leave in the spring" ([T]REES) - ha!
"Cry at night" (HOO[T])
"Mince words" (EDI[T])
"Get with the program" (INSTALL)
"Sailor vis-a-vis a sail (HOISTER)
And "Make like" for ENDEAR is also nice.
Other fun features included two answers that looked the same in the grid, one [T]ROU[T] and the other [T]ROU. Those two were followed by the antonymic pair [T]IMID (Not so brave and determined) and STOU[T] (Brave and determined). It was an added bonus that the clue to the left of the center plus sign was "Plus" (AND).
PRERIGS, SOCORRO, and RUPIAHS - not to mention BHAJIS - were a little far out for me, but I enjoyed the puzzle so much I'm inclined to be LENIENT. :)