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This puzzle is part of the Puzzling Stack Exchange Advent Calendar 2022. The accepted answer to this question will be awarded a bounty worth 50 reputation.

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The final answer to this cryptic crossword is the name of a Christmas carol, whose three-word title can be extracted from the letters of the grid. I hope you enjoy!

enter image description here

ACROSS
1 Quote ends up in the Nesbit, Mississippi Republic (4)
3 Boss's travelling between Pennsylvania and Oklahoma identified with old financial record (8)
9 Let it go: O's exhausted from Foster pitching escapade, giving up 6 after the first (3,4)
10 Rolled over and skinned after cleaning pointy instrument (5)
11 School for lad, Yarboro Finishing, to protest over losing second place, in advance (11)
13 At the moment, me, not I, is used incorrectly (2,4)
15 Closer in Golden, CO revival (6)
17 Bachelor debut: nurse, nun scrambling to overcome blonde's lead; European red-head is a source of heat (6,6)
20 Amex transaction offers bonus (5)
21 Clean-cut Partridge Family opener covers Outfield after Weir's last-second cancellation (4,3)
22 Seeing Wounded Knee in a day provides time to relax (8)
23 Location decreasingly used for music club closing down? (4)

DOWN
1 Sewer crochets eyelet stitches at first, setting up loops (8)
2 Donation to bird rehab returned with neither envelope nor enclosed letter of introduction (5)
4 Mania treated with drug injection results in a lack of vigor (6)
5 Vacuum devices fill small plastic cups with bad pinot and rum; Merry's third is spit out (7,5)
6 Bloom concealed by whorl and ovary (7)
7 Crazy text saying yes includes two emoji hearts (4)
8 Fear losing primary right to life in Mississippi? Perspicacious. This is a sign something is wrong (5,7)
12 Superb rectifier with reduced voltage fluctuation (8)
14 Agent utters wanton nonsense at closing (7)
16 Spread lies about situation, ultimately! (6)
18 English supermodel reflected on initially supporting Bowie's choice of spouse (5)
19 Cat-call disturbs women no end (4)

EDIT NOTES:

  1. Fixed bad positioning of 1 down clue, and added higher resolution image for grid.
  2. Edited enumeration for 21A. It can work with the previous (7), but (4,3) is likely more natural.

HINT-ISH

The instructions indicate that the answer can be extracted from the letters in the grid. They do not indicate where the instructions for picking which letters are used come from. This distinction is deliberate and important.

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2 Answers 2

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This is clever and very nicely constructed by the OP! The carol hidden within this puzzle is:

WE THREE KINGS

The completed grid:

Completed crossword grid

Clue explanations:

ACROSS
1 Quote ends up in the Nesbit, Mississippi Republic (4) CITE = (_E _T _I _C)<
3 Boss's travelling between Pennsylvania and Oklahoma identified with old financial record (8) PASSBOOK = PA (Pennsylvania) + BOSS* + OK (Oklahoma)
9 Let it go: O's exhausted from Foster pitching escapade, giving up 6 after the first (3,4) SET FREE = F(-o)STER* + E(-scapad)E
10 Rolled over and skinned after cleaning pointy instrument (5) CELLO = C(-leaning) + (-r)OLLE(-d)<
11 School for lad, Yarboro Finishing, to protest over losing second place, in advance (11) PREPOSITION = PREP (School for lad) + (-Yarbor)O + SIT IN (protest) containing (-l)O(-sing)
13 At the moment, me, not I, is used incorrectly (2,4) ON TIME = MENOTI*
15 Closer in Golden, CO revival (6) ENCORE = _EN CO RE_
17 Bachelor debut: nurse, nun scrambling to overcome blonde's lead; European red-head is a source of heat (6,6) BUNSEN BURNER = B(-achelor) + NURSENUN* containing B(-londe) + E (European) + R(-ed)
20 Amex transaction offers bonus (5) EXTRA = _EX TRA_
21 Clean-cut Partridge Family opener covers Outfield after Weir's last-second cancellation (4,3) W(-e)I(-r) + P(-artridge)E + OF (Outfield) + F(-amily)
22 Seeing Wounded Knee in a day provides time to relax (8) WEEKENDS = WE(KNEE*)DS
23 Location decreasingly used for music club closing down? (4) DISC = DISC(-o)

DOWN
1 Sewer crochets eyelet stitches at first, setting up loops (8) CESSPOOL = C_ E_ S_ + LOOPS<
2 Donation to bird rehab returned with neither envelope nor enclosed letter of introduction (5) TITHE = TIT (bird) + (-b)(-a)HE(-r) - here, the 'b' and 'r' form the 'envelope' of the returned (reversed) BAHER, and its 'enclosed letter of introduction' is then the first letter within that envelope: the 'a'...
4 Mania treated with drug injection results in a lack of vigor (6) ANEMIA = MANIA* containing E (drug)
5 Vacuum devices fill small plastic cups with bad pinot and rum; Merry's third is spit out (7,5) SUCTION PUMPS = S (small) + CUPS* containing PINOT(-r)UM*
6 Bloom concealed by whorl and ovary (7) ORLANDO = _ORL AND O_
7 Crazy text saying yes includes two emoji hearts (4) KOOK = KK containing 2x (-em)O(-ji)
8 Fear losing primary right to life in Mississippi? Perspicacious. This is a sign something is wrong (5,7) ERROR MESSAGE = (-t)ERROR + M(_E)S + SAGE (Perspicacious)
12 Superb rectifier with reduced voltage fluctuation (8) TERRIFIC = RECTIFI(-e)R*
14 Agent utters wanton nonsense at closing (7) TRUSTEE = UTTERS* + (-nonsens)E
16 Spread lies about situation, ultimately! (6) SNOWED = S(_N)OWED &lit!
18 English supermodel reflected on initially supporting Bowie's choice of spouse (5) NAOMI = (O(-n) in IMAN)<
19 Cat-call disturbs women no end (4) MEOW = WOME(-n)*

For the extraction of the final answer, I owe its discovery to oAlt in comments below (thanks). What we need to spot is that...

...there are words of particular relevance either used outright or hidden secretly among other words in some of the clues. And these words are gifts from The Twelve Days of Christmas:

Day 1: 21A Clean-cut Partridge Family opener covers Outfield after Weir's last-second cancellation (4,3)
Day 2: 10A Rolled over and skinned after cleaning pointy instrument (5)
Day 3: 1A Quote ends up in the Nesbit, Mississippi Republic (4)
Day 4: 2D Donation to bird rehab returned with neither envelope nor enclosed letter of introduction (5)
Day 5: 15A Closer in Golden, CO revival (6)
Day 6: 9A Let it go: O's exhausted from Foster pitching escapade, giving up 6 after the first (3,4)
Day 7: 14D Agent utters wanton nonsense at closing (7)
Day 8: 3A Boss's travelling between Pennsylvania and Oklahoma identified with old financial record (8)
Day 9: 11A School for lad, Yarboro Finishing, to protest over losing second place, in advance (11)
Day 10: 17A Bachelor debut: nurse, nun scrambling to overcome blonde's lead; European red-head is a source of heat (6,6)
Day 11: 8D Fear losing primary right to life in Mississippi? Perspicacious. This is a sign something is wrong (5,7)
Day 12: 5D Vacuum devices fill small plastic cups with bad pinot and rum; Merry's third is spit out (7,5)

What we then need to do is look at the answers to these clues and extract the letter in the same position as the day number from the song. So for Day 1's answer, we take the first letter; for Day 2's, we take the second, etc.

[W]IPE OFF
C[E]LLO
CI[T]E
TIT[H]E
ENCO[R]E
SET FR[E]E
TRUSTE[E]
PASSBOO[K]
PREPOSIT[I]ON
BUNSEN BUR[N]ER
ERROR MESSA[G]E
SUCTION PUMP[S]

And taking these letters in order spells WE THREE KINGS, the name of our hidden carol! Phew - that was a great way to use the Christmas theme of the PSE Advent calendar to conceal an answer (and makes much more sense of what I had perceived as just some odd wording in some of the clues, ha!).

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Stiv So the crossword is of course right. But for the final answer, let me say this: based on your most recent puzzle, you are exactly the right person to take the next step. $\endgroup$ Dec 11, 2022 at 2:02
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    $\begingroup$ @oAlt "cut Partridge" is meant to be Partridge, cut-down...I acknowledge it to be a stretch. For 23A, it is referring to the diminishing sale of CDs in favor of streaming. Re: "clean pointy", pointy as in the front, like pointy end of the spear. $\endgroup$ Dec 11, 2022 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ Aha, I see now. From Jeremy's hint ROT13(V jnf vafcverq gb ybbx sbe uvqqra jbeqf, ohg V qvqa'g abgvpr nalguvat hagvy V jbaqrerq jul "qehzzre" frrzrq gb or uvqqra va gur pyhr sbe 5Q. Fher rabhtu, V sbhaq gur bgure tvsgf sebz Gur Gjryir Qnlf bs Puevfgznf uvqvat va ryrira bgure pyhrf. Rkgenpgvba: tvira gung n tvsg pbzrf agu va gung fbat, gnxr gur agu yrggre bs gur nafjre gb gur pyhr jurer gung tvsg pna or sbhaq (r.t. qehzzre pbzrf gjrysgu fb gnxr gur gjrysgu yrggre bs "fhpgvba chzcf" juvpu vf F). Qbvat guvf sbe nyy gjryir, gur yrggref fcryy bhg va beqre JR GUERR XVATF, juvpu vf vaqrrq n pneby.) $\endgroup$
    – oAlt
    Dec 11, 2022 at 4:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @oAlt Just woken up and ooh that's a very nice spot! Will complete my answer shortly... Thanks :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Dec 11, 2022 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Lodinn No problem; happy to elaborate further (and fix one typo). 1N: '_R _G _V _P' zrnaf gurfr ner gur ynfg yrggref (gur 'raqf') bs gur jbeqf guR arfovG zvffvffvccV erchoyvP, juvpu sbyybj; 'hc' vzcyvrf erirefvat gurz gb trg PVGR. 22N 'JRQF' vf na nooerivngvba sbe 'Jrqarfqnl', gur 'qnl' ersreraprq urer. 2Q Guvf vf n gevpxl bar gb cnefr naq V unq zvfglcrq vg gbb (abj svkrq, gunaxf sbe synttvat vg); gur rairybcr bs 'eruno' erirefrq (v.r. ONURE) vf gur bhgre yrggref, O naq E; vgf 'rapybfrq yrggre bs vagebqhpgvba' vf gur svefg (vagebqhpgbel) yrggre jvguva gung rairybcr, v.r. gur N. $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Dec 11, 2022 at 21:08
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Partial solution:

(Across)

3.

PASSBOOK

CELLO

ON TIME

ENCORE

BUNSEN BURNER

EXTRA

WEEKENDS

(Down)

4.

ANEMIA

SUCTION PUMPS

ORLANDO

KOOK

  1. (partial)

????? MISTAKE

TERRIFIC

TRUSTEE

MEOW

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    $\begingroup$ This might be too partial and you really should add explanations for the clues. $\endgroup$
    – hexomino
    Dec 10, 2022 at 21:13

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