It turns out that under rare conditions, triggered by fumbling a front derailleur shift, the upper chain section (out of the picture on the top) can whip vertically enough to jam between the Terracycle Idler’s mounting bolt and its longer chain retaining pin:
Whereupon the chain falls off the chainring, jams firmly between the spider and the crank, and brings the proceedings to a halt.
Having finally figured out the cause, I made a simple bushing to fit around the mounting bolt, reduce the gap, and (I hope) eliminate the problem:
Given its rarity, I will need a few more years to verify the solution.
Might get around to cleaning the chain one of these days, too …