Split the Difference (Solution)

by R.M. Baur and Eli Bogart

Thirteen cryptic clues are given in which the definition and wordplay parts correspond to two different words, differing from each other by two letters. For each pair of words, a unique intermediate word may be found that differs from each by only one letter. Reading off the changing letters in the intermediate words (in clue order, then first to last letter within each word) gives the clue phrase ONE SMALL STEP OR JACKSON DANCE, as detailed below, leading to the answer MOONWALK.

ONCOINS: CHINS / COIFSCleft features: not a fiasco, silly (5)
ESPLANES: PLANTS / PLANETTwo modes of transportation for shrubbery (6)
MAMATH: PATH / MYTHWay to cut off root and chop thyme (4)
LLCALLING: CABLING / CALMINGCalifornia rapper's jewelry is soothing (7)
STSLATE: PLATE / SLAVEOne in bondage quietly departed (5)
EPCREPT: CRYPT / CRESTChilly pause in burial site (5)
ORSHORT: SHIRT / SHOOTLudicrously hirsute outside the EU? Fire away (5)
JAJABS: TABS / JOBSOccupations for crazy bats (4)
CKLOCKS: LOOKS / LOCUSHelpless, kid's drink tipped over saucer's initial location (5)
SOSOARING: ROARING / STARINGHollering songbird (not large) (7)
NDRENDER: READER / RENTERFrightful red ear on tenant (6)
ANMANOR: MINOR / MAJORInconsequential army officer (5)
CECHILE: WHILE / CHILDA kid is, we hear, a cunning device (5)