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Puzzle #92 January 2009  "SOP"

Instructions: Guess the words defined by the cryptic clues (answers vary in length from four to eleven letters, and six are capitalized) then enter them in the grid one after another in the same order as their clues, starting in the upper left corner. Across words that don't end at the right continue on the next row, and down words that don't end at the bottom continue in the next column. Eleven across words and ten down words won't fit in the grid unless one of their letters is omitted. Those twenty-one letters, taken in order as they occur in across and down words, spell a seven-word message related to the mystery entry. Thanks to Kevin Wald for test-solving and editing this puzzle. (If you are having trouble printing these puzzles, you can download an Adobe Acrobat version of the puzzle and grid). [Want to see some hints?]

Across

  1. Fast car crashed after losing tire, initially causing an uproar
  2. Covertly investigate negation in puzzle's title
  3. Well, I keep having a preference
  4. Last of solvent in container is critically important
  5. Priest mistaken for fairy
  6. Amended, vetoed, and set aside
  7. Clean shot and weapon
  8. Unconcerned about a Dutch musical number
  9. Scattering faster, shoot a spray of bullets
  10. Hidden discharge doesn't end
  11. Mystery entry
  12. Improve morning finale
  13. Beginning of life in bay causes disease
  14. French author carries pressure tool
  15. Sport in Japan just started with a shoot
  16. Lieutenant hiding inside thin cover
  17. Some of the bonbons might be black
  18. Device that measures a thousand in a row
  19. Note initially clean condition of instrument
  20. Give up pitch about godhead
  21. Stand or stumble on demand

Down

  1. Firm fuzz makes hard stone
  2. Start thread in seat and sew loosely
  3. Some rituals having value
  4. Start to cut behind the French fold
  5. Liquors' benefits
  6. Division of near east
  7. Haul trailer up front, adding grain
  8. Protector to hold off about conclusion
  9. Flag a vehicle carrying a plant
  10. Master's order finally for Latin schoolbook
  11. Thoughtful reworking of 7?
  12. Confused justice takes bachelor for one dependent
  13. Southern unit of weight plus eastern unit of weight
  14. Youngster holds large cudgel
  15. Elaborate talk about number
  16. Caustic proton donor eats up arginine
  17. Songbird's gold getting one "bravo!"
  18. Monster has inappropriate clothing on
  19. Deposition about Homeric poetry
  20. Vile echinoderm ingesting bloodsucker
  21. Get sharp end of sticker inside block
  22. Pallid baked goods without merit, essentially
  23. Loose dirt covers head of horse in show