This puzzle asks us to just solve one cryptic clue… except that all its most important words have been replaced by more cryptic clues, which in turn have had some of their words replaced by even more cryptic clues, and on and on.

Fortunately there are only 35 cryptic clues total in use here. A possible starting point is realizing the parentheses at the ends of all the clues are holding enumerations, and therefore that words 8, 9, 18, 24, 25 and 30 are all numbers. In particular, since the enumeration of word 9 is given by clue 9, that can only be the number FOUR.

From there we might be able to figure out the other number words (eg, words 8 and 18 both have enumerations of four, and so have to be FIVE and NINE). Or we might guess that word 19 which shows up in most of the number words’ clues is in fact NUMBER. Or we might recognize the homophone wordplay of “for, so I 10” in the clue for FOUR, and guess that word 10 as a four-letter homophone indicator is HEAR.

The provided id numbers give an alphabetical ordering of all the missing clue words, to help confirm our work as we go. Through a process of both forward- and back-solving the cryptic clues, we’ll reassemble enough of the original clue to obtain the final answer: **MARBLE**.

Ref | Answer | Assembled Clue | Explanation |
---|---|---|---|

MARBLE | Something found in nature museum FIRST, MARCH SECOND to LAST of YEAR, MIDDLE of DUBLIN, BACK of SQUARE | Museum + mArch + yeaR + duBLin + squarE | |

1 | AREA | ODDLY a TREE was potentially a SQUARE MILE (FOUR) | A tReE wAs |

2 | BACK | SECOND LAST place (FOUR) | double definition |

3 | CITY | Sudden move BACK to my LAST urban AREA (FOUR) | TIC reversed + mY |

4 | DECIDE | After LAST MONTH I'd be BACK to have the LAST word (SIX) | DEC + ID + bE |

5 | DUBLIN | Friend is BACK and well at LAST in CITY (SIX) | BUD reversed + welL + IN |

6 | EVEN | FIRST lady puts on new UNIFORM (FOUR) | EVE + N |

7 | FIRST | Far from the LAST TREE on the STREET (FIVE) | FIR + ST |

8 | FIVE | If the FIRST is lost, then I've become NUMBER (FOUR) | iF + IVE |

9 | FOUR | What the NUMBER after THREE is for, so I HEAR (FOUR) | FOR homophone |

10 | HEAR | DECIDE a case in the AREA (FOUR) | tHE ARea |

11 | LAST | The one at the BACK, ODDLY, LEADS it (FOUR) | LeAdS iT |

12 | LEADS | Those in FIRST form an English CITY, or so I HEAR (FIVE) | LEEDS homophone |

13 | LONG | PINE for fallen TREE around MIDDLE of MONTH (FOUR) | LOG around moNth |

14 | MARCH | Walk for MONTH NUMBER THREE (FIVE) | double definition |

15 | MIDDLE | Due FIRST, twice in a MILE between FIRST and LAST (SIX) | MILE around Due twice |

16 | MILE | A LONG way for SECOND of imported PINE, elm, yew (FOUR) | iMported + pIne + eLm + yEw |

17 | MONTH | May perhaps be UNIFORM on the inside (FIVE) | uniforM ON THe |

18 | NINE | NUMBER SEVEN - I need some (FOUR) | seveN I NEed |

19 | NUMBER | It might be EVEN less SENSITIVE (SIX) | double definition |

20 | ODDLY | In a STRANGE way, like THREE, FIVE and SEVEN (FIVE) | double definition |

21 | PINE | Variety of TREE is SOFT in the end (FOUR) | P + IN + thE |

22 | SECOND | After the FIRST base UNIT (SIX) | double definition |

23 | SENSITIVE | SEVEN: It is STRANGE and SOFT (NINE) | SEVEN IT IS anagram |

24 | SEVEN | SECOND EVEN NUMBER (FIVE) | S + EVEN |

25 | SIX | FIRST of SEVEN, NINE, FOUR, and two (THREE) | Seven + IX |

26 | SOFT | The g in STRANGE is so - FIRST, but with no MIDDLE (FOUR) | SO + FirsT |

27 | SQUARE | EVEN - like FOUR (SIX) | double definition |

28 | STRANGE | STREET AREA is not what you might expect (SEVEN) | ST + RANGE |

29 | STREET | Use THREE seats EVEN? There's a way (SIX) | uSe ThReE sEaTs |

30 | THREE | STRANGE, there is a NUMBER (FIVE) | THERE anagram |

31 | TREE | It can help you DECIDE something in the MIDDLE of STREET (SIX) | sTREEt |

32 | UNIFORM | UNIT stops short to make things EVEN (SEVEN) | UNIt + FORM |

33 | UNIT | One MILE, for example (FOUR) | double definition |

34 | YEAR | A LONG time to PINE, and with no closure (FOUR) | YEARn |