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There are no word boundaries in this grid. All empty spaces must be filled and entries can share any number of letters. Fourteen clues have been affected by a mystical force and their entry into the grid follows different rules than other clues. The four "across" answers in the middle row (all of which are normal clues, albeit cyclically dependent) explain what unusual thing these entries do, and specifically in what manner they do it. Note the position of the cell in which this unusual thing happens in the grid and select the letter in that position in the clue. (For example, if the unusual thing happens in the fourth cell of the grid entry, select the fourth letter of the clue.) The selected letters, in clue order, spell out the name of a real-life character who likewise refused to play by the rules of others.

Five pairs of successive clues have had one letter removed. The removed letter is the same in both clues of each pair and must be restored before solving. The removed letters, each counted only once, spell out another way of describing what has been done to the letters involved. The starting letters of these clues spell out the name of a heroic character who relies on the use of a mystical force.

Nine other clues contain one extra letter, which must be removed before solving. The extra letters, in clue order, identify a villainous character who uses mystical forces of another kind. The starting letters of these clues spell out what this character might consider themself to be (although others may disagree).

The remaining fourteen clues all work normally. Note the length of each answer and select the letter at that position in the clue. The letters so selected form the name of a notable catalogue that celebrates the power of humanity without the use of any mystical forces.

All modifications produce real words found in the UKACD. When all is said and done, the grid contains a cameo appearance of a real person bringing life to all the above.

enter image description here

Across
8. Lady's close to finals in American NBA? Basketballer Jordan's ready (5)
11. Quite acceptable to be hugged by dog from Kansas that ravelled far and learned (4,2)
13. UK city firs in supporting public swimming pool (5)
15. Twenty men, skinned by giant birds, turned rover (5)
17. American hunter Loco Loco is facing time after taking drug (6)
18. Small amounts of hair from headless cuckoos? (5)
21. City that's capital of a country (50% muslim) near the western edge of Africa (4)
22. Very hot spot for retired fellow who swings both ways (5)
23. Pack animal's hole is incomplete (5)
24. Go 29 across supplies freely in only seconds (4)
26. At an earlier date in 28 across cellar (4)
28. 24 across musical sound for elite school (4)
29. Gutless separatist – head of 26 across all-powerful core – is put away (4)
31. Half-naked Poles flaying to interrupt writer Eliot (7)
33. In NASA, unravelling horrific crime? Settle inhabitants, perhaps? (9)
40. Grotesque horntail goes around magical land in Bum's books, turning around and lying flat (10)
41. Othello's introduction (with bananas!) to Iran's province (7)
43. African megacity, not the capital of Gauteng? It's landlocked (4)
44. One lay in ruins following Jack, a late-night TV host (3,4)
45. Earl's first son acquires northern wood that's shard (5)
46. Giza landmark maybe rejected woman covered in sauce (7)

Down
1. Belfast IRA, misunderstood, has eaten Maoist cake? (8)
2. Objects purposely buried in the ground of Columbia's bans by guerrilla leader (5)
3. Northward-pointing tool, for cutting carrot sin, newspaper employee called for (7)
4. Lester Young's instrument captivates loud city (4)
5. A leading figure in tribe possibly lacks the heart to become restaurant employee? (4)
6. Note: Evading last part in walking… Ingmar's dog? (8)
7. To argue loudly, to receive unlimited amore one day, in the near future? (8)
9. Detected in advance, teens undressed (after more than one warning) on the green (8)
10. In broadcast, pirate captain is acquainted with Cheyenne warrior (4,4)
12. Inspect a Tesla's flight (6)
14. Skeletor's foe, Henry, changed name (2-3)
16. Amid rare case, back employment and file new charges (5)
19. Flippin' disinformation (about mother!) a message transmitted electronically (5)
20. Given in speech: "By no means! It's tied by saying one doges?" (4)
24. Jerk refusing work for someone who is we (5)
25. In Old World continent, two leaders censored Fortis crime thriller (4)
26. State's raw mineral lost almost entirely? (6)
27. Metal container holds mix with essential part from haloes (4,4)
28. Silly men (donkeys, almost!) being together (2,5)
29. Someone like Archimedes is in Spain, if family accepts two pillars? (8)
30. Terrible blunder in sports: Game won by ultimately cheating, twisted inhabitant of 43 across (3,4)
32. Landing place, perchance, rejected broken cane (5)
34. Auriel (of Uranus, say) expressed by low point (4)
35. One associated with spreader of falsehoods caught by extremists in "City of Lashes" (7)
36. Nero is in bad condition after injuring foot? A lost cause (5)
37. No git at seal was allowed entrance (3,2)
38. Outsiders in Hanna Abrams's spiritual journey (4)
39. Noble and Charles and Marie – creatures? (4)
41. New York entertained by Duce showing stone that looks pretty (4)
42. Top trophies in the world of theatre snubbing finale of Shakespearean play? That's what they're for (4)

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    $\begingroup$ Is 30D really supposed to reference 44A? Seems like it should be a different clue to me, but I may be wrong. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Jan 8 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi Oops yeah, that's supposed to be 43a. Sorry about that! $\endgroup$ – Jafe Jan 8 at 21:54
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The filled grid:

enter image description here

Clue explanations:

enter image description here
Yellow clues are those where a "mystical force" affects entry; blue letters are missing, red letters are extra, and gray clues are normal.

The "force"-affected words all have one right-angled turn during entry, which leads them "backwards". That is, an Across clue will start going up, and a Down clue will start going left.

Following directions:

The four "across" answers in the middle row (all of which are normal clues, albeit cyclically dependent) explain what unusual thing these entries do, and specifically in what manner they do it.

These entries are TURN ONCE ETON STOW. "Turn once" is the unusual thing these entries do; they turn from East to North and South to West.
[..."force" clues ...] The selected letters, in clue order, spell out the name of a real-life character who likewise refused to play by the rules of others.
This character is MICHAEL COLLINS.

[... "removed letter" clues ...] The removed letters, each counted only once, spell out another way of describing what has been done to the letters involved.
They have been TAKEN.

[...] The starting letters of these clues spell out the name of a heroic character who relies on the use of a mystical force.
This character is QUI-GON JINN, of the Star Wars films.

[... "extra letter" clues ...] The extra letters, in clue order, identify a villainous character who uses mystical forces of another kind.
This character is RA'S AL GHUL, a Batman supervillain.

[...] The starting letters of these clues spell out what this character might consider themself to be (although others may disagree).
They might call themselves THE BIG MAN.

[... normal clues ...] The letters so selected form the name of a notable catalogue that celebrates the power of humanity without the use of any mystical forces.
This is SCHINDLER'S LIST.

And finally,

When all is said and done, the grid contains a cameo appearance of a real person bringing life to all the above.

This is LIAM NEESON, visible in row 6 of the grid. He played MICHAEL COLLINS, QUI-GON JINN, and RA'S AL GHUL; he also starred in TAKEN, THE BIG MAN, and SCHINDLER'S LIST.

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    $\begingroup$ I think rot13(RGBA FGBJ) actually says rot13(RNFG GB ABEGU, FBHGU GB JRFG). $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Jan 8 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan Ahh, of course! Good catch. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Jan 8 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ Almost there! The last word of the 8a clue has a slang meaning. $\endgroup$ – Jafe Jan 10 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ I think 8a is rot13(QV + _A _N _E) $\endgroup$ – user39583 Jan 10 at 15:11

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