(Throughout this post, I will be using cryptic annotations in code blocks. The answer word is made up of all of the capital letters; the punctuation, lowercase letters, and spacing is a guide to help understand how the answer was derived from the clue.)
What is a cryptic clue?
A cryptic crossword clue is a phrase that leads to a single answer word through ...
This information technology
simply never obeys the leaders. Nasal fluid
begins a big ugly Indian mountain.
A stupid person is the manager of codes.
A locker is secure
in heavy halogen
You are Eastern river in England.
So the answer is
or, more descriptively,
So, standing on the shoulders of giants, and adding in the answers to two remaining stanzas, we get the final complete solution (as noted by Quassnoi), to discover that life is indeed:
Looking at the riddle, it's fairly obvious that the clues are cryptic, but there's a little more to it than that. As hinted, the final stanza tells us how to approach the ...
Maybe "the first" is number one or NO. I (Roman numeral 1), followed by L, an abbreviation for "left". We take all that and turn it around to make L I ON. The definition part would then be "at the zoo", which is not a great definition for lion as it's the wrong part of speech, but that's all I can come up with.
When you take
This sheet has all of the annotations; here's just the list of answers and how they combine.
(Various parts solved by jagoandlitefoot, Deusovi, durron597, ffao, jstnthms, PaulEvans, Gareth McCaugham, M Oehm, and Rubio.)
Most of the hard work has been done by James Webster. I think I have the rest.
The first set of clues leads to
where I have
The second set leads to
where I have
So despite the coincidence of lengths
And of course (as pointed out by Joe in comments)
The dots in between the squares...
These can be interpreted
There are also some other ways to extract similar arrangements of letters:
The data collected:
The next step needed heavy hinting for me to find it:
Unused information [hinted to be a clue to the step I did first]:
The trick to this puzzle is that
At first tolerate, then back winner (5)
Party briefly represented by 500 at the side of reem, regularly (3)
Extremely jaded Ohio electrician's name (3)
Video-networking piece showing number (3)
Rubio specifically mentioned partial solutions, so I thought I'd start recording information here, starting with the cryptic clues. Unfortunately, I realized that
For the cryptic clues, number 2 seems to be
Finally, number 3 is
Thus, the cryptic clues spell out
Edit:I think I've figured out the next step. The only way the clues make sense is ...
Okay, I have most of the 2-word phrases, haven't started work on the 3-word phrases yet.
The rule is the following:
So you have the answers:
This was a blast, looking forward to tackling the 3-words!
Edit: Got 'em all! Thanks to Ben for the extra help!
This puzzle was co-solved by Deusovi, ManyPinkHats, Reinier, SKOG, and many hints from phenomist.
If you'd like to solve it yourself, here are the errata (in a spoiler-free way):
The fishing float does not conduct electricity.
For the intended solution to the arena, add the first letters of the two teams (using A=1, ..., Z=26), then add 7. ...
An ancient man demolished his estate,
And therefore, with enthusiasm innate,
He was bewildered when a hoax was glued
Somewhere beside where he had said adieu.
The dome where five lone defects lost their head
Confounds small pools where diamonds sleep instead.
Put together, this makes
for which the solution is
The poem is indeed a study in
I'm still curious about this puzzle, so here are a couple more of the clues I think might be right but haven't been solved thus far.
Works of parties (6)
Small entraces to functions (4)
Trip in bar room (5)
Notice no redhead shrinking (6)
Sending away, staring (8,3)
Meta 2 Answer
Big thanks to @feelinferrety and @LeppyR64 for ...
Feral Ulysses S. Grant keeps the troops aroused (6)
A giant horrifies Frankenstein’s monster (5)
Superstitious people consider finding a penny or seeing a shooting star to be greens (4)
After speaking with a materialist, I began to wonder whether the mists... (5)
Secret society attacked by rider (5)
Moon my side (5)
Bets make it hard for investors to ...
Is the answer
Call it sin, and mess it up could be
between θ and κ is
[Unsolved] engage emotionally is
half a byte is
I think mottle will be
Never mix meds & gin could be
‐ is probably
Sing about the matter will be
Frog's pole is
Heroin or slap is
0 or 1 could be
A toy asking a question on PSE could ...