Combination of all answers with credits
Sahara desert capitals of historically African region in Germany (4)
Fifth Element: Besson's first and last is full of romance gold (5)
Second detective inside to secretly investigate Scottish river (4)
Animal with a bull's head, a dog's body and a panda's tail (3)
College-educated snake brings top backing to ...
I think you are
I'm in the north. I can be accompanied by violent crimes, a relative direction, or a body of fresh water.
I'm in the east. I can be accompanied by a wiild aanimal, a cardinal direction, or a place by the water.
I'm in the south. I can be accompanied by a financial transaction, an African religion or overflows of water.
I'm in the west. I ...
The poem is about
One of us – largest outside polar regions;
another one's island's shared with Indonesians;
a third one is found at the edge of the first,
a break from the dryness to quench people's thirst.
One of us separates Swedes from the Finns;
one – lake with skiing, casinos and inns;
one's a dry place near where Mongol herds graze;
one flows ...
Funny beret men strike ?? to convene (4)
Containers found in a ?? plaza (4)
Ten ?? site's leaders return after first state, shortly (4)
Ethnic group is ??, locally (4)
Dmitry's ?? chamber first for union's capital (4)
Hideout between left and right, return ??'s finals (4)
Certain banks of ?? river encircle central dome (4)
??'s extremities leave ...
The cryptic clues ...
3 No, that is, in lieu of two, a single beheaded homicide leader precedes
4 Limits of source removes, intrinsically the energy would be lost
5 Tip for buying muppet – by Peter
6 A broken shank is leading
8 Demolish Cal's cabana
10 Call me after one
1 Sly glares I received
2 False hope with ...
Here are a few:
1a Funny beret men strike ?? to convene (4).
8a Hideout between left and right, return ??'s finals (4)
Stalk Dorothy's aunt following the heart of ?? (4)
15a. In the middle of chaotic ??, doctor gets cut (4)
17a. Constituents of ??'s republic passed with flying colours (4)
18a. Arrest ??'s top three; capital punishment ...
Clearly you were visiting
A barrel maker passing on some oolong.
Brimming with an unspecified amount.
An unpretentious piggy.
Astonished by an unobserved restoration.
Fifteen à la mode.
A digit ritually imparting divine grace.
Here is the final grid (credit to Jacob Shetler, Remi Henry and M Oehm for solving some of the clues)
1. Far north Silicon Valley's research & development leaders surround Jessica (8)
2. Pop star loses British-American distribution rights to music organization (4)
3. Kingdom's famous sherpa leaves greatest top, gets second award (6)
4. Clapton song ...
(Firstly, can I just say that this is a really nice little puzzle and it is a shame it has never garnered the attention it deserves!) As for the solution, I believe your AI created this art to represent your travels using:
To start with, we know from the text that you have visited 12 countries. Note then that the line of the artwork which represents the ‘...
Sad Wally, ugliest Alcatraz impala, mimeo abhorrer, lava continuo, kneels.
Mean nerd met imperiled underservant; cuckoo kisses Ina Nagle.
Met nerd, men worry cello neoclassicism negate Icaria tox lava.
So the answer is:
1. Top left corner
2. Top mid-left
3. Top mid-right
4. Top right corner
5. Centre far-left
6. Centre mid-left
7. Centre mid-right
8. Centre far-right
9. Bottom left corner
10. Bottom mid-left
11. Bottom mid-right
12. Bottom right corner
First of all, the solutions to the cryptic clues:
Now we can fill in the grid:
So we didn't need that extra hint, but
Thanks to @Tom for providing, in comments, the key observation for one clue I'd been unable to get. (I don't know whether Tom solved the clue as well; I expect so.) And then for pointing out (politely) the idiocy of the answer ...
Gladys is in the
Clues and solutions:
Many of these were also solved by @hexomino, but I haven't looked at their answers ... except that I wasn't able to figure out #10 and peeked at that one, which apparently was actually solved by Chris Cudmore in comments. Kudos to Chris!
Piecing these together we get:
There is one thing I don't understand: