Title: Two Outs
Theme answers are words or phrases with two circled letters. Taking the two circled letters out creates a new word. The original answer + the circle-less word = an expression reflecting the wacky clue.
20A. Red wine drinker’s paradise? = Shangri-La/Sangria
22A. Employee at the Ron Paul Archive? = Liberatian/Librarian
24A. Pitch that fixes everything? = Curveball/Cure-all
26A. Dollar bill featuring a portrait of Duran Duran’s lead singer? = Simon Le Bon/Simoleon
47A. The one puppy that can read? = Litter Mate/Literate
53A. Creator of perfect storm? = Maelstrom/Maestro
83A. Minor league championship flag? = Pennyante/Pennant
86A. Alienate a New Jersey City? = East Orange/Estrange
109A. Begat a soft place to sleep? = Feather Bed/Fathered
113A. “Charge!” to Duracells? = Battle Cry/Battery
117A. Satisfying finale coming to pass? = Happy Ending/Happening
It didn’t take me too long to figure out what was up with the circled letters. However, I didn’t immediate realize the relationship between the original answer and the newly-formed word. In some of the expressions, the longer word comes first; in others, it comes second. In any case, a very clever theme.