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&rest replacement/addition

re: . . . We found that &REST CONSing was
    taking time and space we couldn't afford (the things it was doing to
    the freelist! :-)

You didn't say what implementation of Common Lisp you were using.  Some
do ordinary CONSing for &rest lists; some do "stack allocation"; and finally
others offer a DYNAMIC-EXTENT declaration so that you can choose, on a
per-function basis.

 From your comment about the "freelist!", I would assume you were in an
implementation that did ordinary consing.  I wonder how the selective
use of a DYNAMIC-EXTENT would have affected the project?

-- JonL --