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Puzzle #129 February 2012  "First Choice"

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. Mystery entry
  2. A gale stirred up pond scum
  3. At wit's end, dear Pete's going mad
  4. Tips of cane added to actual grain
  5. Set up in bustling Crete
  6. Sweet fop loses head for Charlie
  7. Guy let off to get covering
  8. Pause has set railway back
  9. Crowd contained by other deputies
  10. Look of southern vetch
  11. Romeo also returning for base part
  12. Stupid Eloise has no love for cow
  13. Railroad keeps up the French sovereign
  14. Get to run with every one
  15. Had a vision about the name of a cup, for instance
  16. Mark and Earl love excessively
  17. Genuine silver coin
  18. Caterer gets fed
  19. Ruminant of eastern territory
  20. Present in the rectory
  21. Dedicated plot of land in South Dakota
  22. Observe bird taking left for right
  23. No help analyzing chemical compound
  24. Injured in France, Lee's on the mend
  25. Mystery entry

Down

  1. Mistakenly cleared to issue a statement
  2. Temerity of rabbi in glee being made king
  3. Count ended in error involving penny
  4. Tip of skewering instrument is keen
  5. Turn out consistently ahead of time
  6. Walk stealthily with small loaf
  7. The Iroquois embracing a scion
  8. Eastern story raised cheer
  9. Save broken container
  10. Put flatfish in sound
  11. River route has a train wreck
  12. Treat by shaking or beating
  13. Household's advantage
  14. Assemble storage unit back in bed
  15. Tree of greater age
  16. Draw English sled
  17. Sun's corona starts to act up, radiating emissions of luminous energy
  18. Find out how to start living and make money
  19. A bit of relish in beverage is not too much to bear
  20. Watch initiation of development in germ
  21. Author describes encompassing mob
  22. Portion of kudos earned
  23. Bore merited a correction
  24. Stockings beginning to annoy prophet