"Counter" is one of those gifted words that map to multiple lexical categories and, like other words of its kind ("about" comes to mind), it lays open a world of wordplay opportunities for the setter. In a typical example, on the clue's surface "counter" would be a noun, in the cryptic reading a verb, an adjective or an adverb acting as wordplay indicator.
Here are some popular ways in which COUNTER gets used in clues.
1. As reversal indicator
Counter implies "in the opposite direction", a meaning used to form reversal clues.
Indy 8510 (Klingsor): Counter-revolutionary avoids opening in Leicester Square (4) NINE
LENIN (revolutionary) reversed, minus L[eicester]. NINE is a square number.
Independent 8191 (Donk): Appropriate stuff when one's expected to burst on the counter (6) PIRATE
ETA (when one's expected i.e. Expected Time of Arrival) RIP (burst), "on the counter" i.e. all reversed
2. In its nounal forms
"counter" has several meanings when it's a noun, and what's more, the word can be swapped in the answer with other crossword-friendly words – bar, chip, fish, table, etc.
Independent 8425 (Radian): Counter counter (6) ABACUS
cd; A frame used for counting with beads (counters) sliding on wires.
Times 24825: Chip against the bar (7) COUNTER
Triple definition: chip, against, bar.
(UNEARTHING)* on BAR (counter), &lit
3. As anagram fodder
The letters in "counter" can be sorted/combined with more letters, to produce other words/phrases for the answer.
Guardian 25964 (Rufus): Counter-productive defeat (7) TROUNCE
Independent 8245 (Hob): Name given to counter-revolutionary piece (8) NOCTURNE
N (name) (COUNTER)*
4. As part of the definition
FT 14498 (Jason): Possibly Selma saw no person on the counter? (10) SALESWOMAN
(SELMA SAW NO)*
FT 14577 (Rosa Klebb): Counter-agent has Sunday off, stationed abroad (8) ANTIDOTE
(STATIONED – S)*
Times 25232: Original chicken counter in popular Indian (5) N____
Times 24338: Scene showing gold under the counter (7) T______
FT 14471 (Wanderer): Counter with winning counter, an asset in trading (10, 4) B_________ ____
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