Welcome, all, to my new crossword/puzzle blog! For the inaugural post, we've got a cryptic crossword with a fun hidden theme. Enjoy it either in your browser, in the Across Lite App, or on paper (!! very recommended if possible, the theme relies on something that's much harder to see online) with the array of attachments below. Please leave any feedback you think might be helpful - I'm new at this and would love to hear your thoughts. With all that out of the way, here are the instructions, and the puzzle itself!
Instructions: Remove a word from 7 Across clues before solving - these words will read out, in clue order, a cryptic clue, with enumeration (2 2 4?), to a question you might have while solving. Similarly, 6 words from Down clues must be removed before solving, which will form an instruction. Upon following it, an answer (2'1 4!) should become apparent, as well as some additional details (6, 5, 4 2, 6, 5).
And for those who'd prefer another format: the puz and pdf files, as promised! Solution and commentary to be posted within the week. EDIT 7/18: Changed a factually incorrect clue and made a minor edit to the instructions. Thanks to Kevan for pointing these out to me!
ROT-13 Spoilers with an important note: @sylvatryringbe orng zr gb gur gurzr, cbfgvat uvf zvav WHFG nf v jnf svavfuvat guvf hc. fgvyy jnagrq gb funer fbzrguvat gung pna ubcrshyyl fgvyy fhecevfr/rkpvgr!