I thought at first this was going to be tough, not getting 1 across straight away and treating the following clues with rather more suspicion than they warranted. Once I got going, though, I realised it was rather more straightforward, and completed in a little over 20 minutes, a good five minutes beyond the current average. There’s rather a lot of lopping off first or last letters to contend with, and by my count only two anagrams.
On a whim, I entered the middle column into Google, and got a Google Whack, the glory of such a discovery somewhat migrated by the fact that neither word is real, and the result is quite clearly a misprint. So no NINA, then
My workings, should you need them, are presented with clues, definitions and SOLUTIONS. Enjoy.
1 Greatly enjoy describing driver well ahead of the competition? (3,2)
LAP UP More of a double definition than anything else, the second the putative case of, say, Lewis Hamilton having a dream race
4 Flower child initially wrapped in flannel (9)
BUTTERCUP In even my lexicon of flora. The first letter (initially) of Child within BUTTER UP, flannel here in the sense of flatter
9 Boy imprisoned by those people, say, makes regular complaint (5,4)
THEME SONG The wordplay is those people: THEM, say: EG, boy: SON inserted. I am indebted to Chambers for “a person's characteristic, often repeated, complaint, etc” for confirmation that it is a thing beyond being “Suicide is painless” or “Stick a pony in me pocket”.
10 Unimaginative slogan of beer-minded Prohibitionist left unfinished (5)
BANAL One with an obsession about the negative effects of one of mankind’s greatest creations might want to BAN ALE. Lop the end off.
11 French are blocking the present item in argument (6)
THESIS I think the definition is just “argument”, leaving “the present article” to account for THIS, and the French art (2nd person singular present tense of the verb to be) providing the ES you need to insert
12 Much of hole is concealed by skill shown by tree expert (8)
ARBORIST Much of hole: BOR(e), IS both inserted into skill: ART
14 Year in party elected to take on most of the complex situation (9)
LABYRINTH The party is LAB(our), and if you can imagine it, being elected it is IN. Insert Y(ea)R and append TH(e) (most of)
16 Song line recalled rumour about island (5)
LYRIC Line gives you L, rumour recalled gives you YRC, and I(sland) fills the missing letter. Chambers comes up with cry….report or rumour, but I’m not sure I’d use it
17 Difficulties with English in school vacation (5)
HOLES School vacations being HOLS and English submitting its E
19 Material in small opening in marine growth (9)
CORPOREAL My last in, convinced I was looking for some sort of fabric. However, small hole is PORE and marine growth is the easy CORAL
21 Knight considering ignoring first sound from horse? (8)
NEIGHING (other horse sounds may be available especially from Mr Ed). In chess, the Knight is N so as not to confuse it with the King. Considering is WEIGHING, ignore the W
22 Amount of work in uniform adopted by soldiers (6)
CORPUS The body of work by an author and such. NATO’s Uniform absorbed by CORPS, your soldiers here.
25 Scout missing special river creature (5)
OTTER A scout, especially perhaps one seeing where artillery shells fall, is a SPOTTER. It’s missing SP(ecial)
26 Lively blackbird without tail seen around religious court (9)
MERCURIAL MERLE may not be everyone’s version of blackbird, but it’s the one you’re looking for, minus its tail. The religious court is CURIA “the court of the Papal See”
27 Neat and chic, with varying length in a strict sense (9)
TECHNICAL Varying is your anagram indicator, to be applied to NEAT and CHIC. Finish with L(ength)
28 Fact corporation presented to US lawyer (5)
DATUM I trust everyone knows the American lawyer is a District Attorney. Corporation=stomach=TUM
1 Rented one incredible resort to relax (3,2,3,4,3)
LET IT ALL HANG OUT You’ve got rented: LET, one: I, incredible: TALL, resort HANGOUT, Squish together and respace
2 A bit open, but not ultimately ajar (5)
PIECE Open is a verb here: being PIERCE “ultimately ajar” is just R, to be removed
3 Leader concerned with source of money provided in support (7)
PREMIER Concerned with: RE, source of money: M, support: PIER. Assemble
4 Gift sees expression of disapproval over note (4)
BOON Here the note is not random musical, just N. Expression of disapproval: BOO!
5 Rows around galleon’s bow to listen for giant fish (5,5)
TIGER SHARK Rows: TIERS, Galleon’s bow: G, listen: HARK. Squish together and respace
6 Involve the writer in upset over British fuel (7)
EMBROIL The writer is ME, to be “upset” and served with BR(itish) fuel OIL
7 Concentrated amount of work accepted by one European hotel employee (9)
CONCIERGE: A hall porter might well work in a hotel. I didn’t think about it at the tie, but CONC comes from concentrated, as seen on acid bottles in Stinks. One is once again I, amount of work ERG, European just the E
8 Aspiration of refugees capitalism foully mistreated, dispatching force (9,6)
POLITICAL ASYLUM An anagram (mistreated) of CAPITALISM FOULLY minus the F(orce)
13 A French funny man, keeping working, making no money (10)
UNECONOMIC A in French, blatantly ignoring the assumed gender, is UNE, the funny man a COMIC, and working is ON. Assemble.
15 Is enthralled by bullet movement, describing projectiles (9)
BALLISTIC Bullet here is BALL, as Richard Sharpe would recognise, is is IS, and (involuntary) movement is TIC. Assemble.
18 Surprised comments picked up and published regarding desert (7)
SAHARAN I guess you can have more than one AHA as your surprised comments, so reverse them and add RAN for published
20 Pompous nonsense suppressed by institute, not the first (7)
OROTUND Nonsense is ROT, and the rest to surround it is FOUND for institute (the verb) minus its first letter
23 Justification in blocking prize money (5)
POINT And your point is? Prize money is POT, and IN in plain sight is inserted
24 Ethical to deduct marks in exam (4)
ORAL Ethical is MORAL, lop off the M(arks)