I have reached the point on the Swallowtail Shawl where the word "nupp" simply must be mentioned. Trawling the Ravelry forums provided tons of useful tips for wrangling the dreadful creatures (BTW – why are they called "nupps"? Acronym? Derived from some ancient language?). The two suggestions I liked best were: 1) do 3 stitches instead of 5, and 2) fasten the relevant stitches together with something so as not to confuse them with the yarnovers that precede and follow.
Right after creating the 3, 5, or 7 stitches that will comprise the nupp one simply slides the point of the nupp-buster into the collection and locks it closed. It's an easy maneuver, because the nupp stitches are still all nice and loose.
After working an entire right-side row the shawl looks like this –
The fun comes on the return row. By now, of course, all the looseness in the nupp stitches has spread itself among the adjoining stitches, and the nupp is tighter than tight. Heh. A gentle tug on the nupp-buster loosens it up again so that the right needle can be inserted.
Then we unlock the nupp-buster, slide it out, and purl all the stitches together. Easy peasy. This method does slow the nupp creation a trifle, but it compensates by speeding up the return row amazingly. And most importantly -- I believe it will allow me to complete the Swallowtail while still preserving some remnants of sanity.