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Uncle Nestor is a renowned global traveller, and can never stay focused on the one thing for too long. In an attempt to pass the time through the current global travel restrictions, Nestor thought it would be a great idea to construct a crossword of all the countries he's visited. The trouble with Nestor is that he loses focus very quickly, and gave up writing clues after 9 across. "Well", he said, "they're all countries, so it shouldn't be too hard. Besides, I'm too busy planning my next trip. As a bonus, once solved you'll be able to rearrange the letters in the coloured squares to find the next five countries on my global itinerary. Once the travel restrictions are lifted, of course".

enter image description here

Across                                                      Down                    
1   A Country dealt an E rating? Not in 1978 and 1986!      1   A Country           
5   East by east to get to this country                     2   A Country           
9   An island territory full of mystery?                    3   A Country           
11  A Country                                               4   A Country           
12  A Country                                               5   A Country           
13  A Country                                               6   A Country           
15  A Country                                               7   A Country           
16  A Country                                               8   A Country           
18  A Country                                               10  A Country           
19  A Country                                               14  A Country           
20  A Country                                               16  A Country           
21  A Country                                               17  A Country           
25  A Country                                               20  A Country           
26  A Country                                               22  A Country           
27  A Country                                               23  A Country           
28  A Country                                               24  A Country           
29  A Country                                               29  A Country           
32  A Country                                               30  A Country           
33  A Country                                               31  A Country           
34  A Country                                                                   

So, what are the next five countries on Uncle Nestor's itinerary?

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  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is a remarkable puzzle imo. Solving an entire crossword from only 3 clues is genius. $\endgroup$ – Sid May 7 at 9:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Absolutely remarkable. $\endgroup$ – Avi May 7 at 9:50
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The completed crossword is:

enter image description here

This was quite a challenge, especially since BERMUDA is not technically a sovereign state (and so didn't cross my mind for a looong time - see final spoiler block for explanation), SWAZILAND has recently been renamed eSWATINI, and CONGO is used here as an abbreviation for the more official REPUBLIC OF CONGO (which usually differentiates it from the Democratic Republic of Congo...). Also note that PANAMA in 20 across could equally be POLAND. Aside from that, I actually found it easiest to solve from the top-left (via 1 across) and bottom-right corners first, rather than solving all three of the provided clues straight away!

The gold squares then yield up the letters:

ANAREBRUNGEDRAUAIZBQRMORCIDEIA

...which after a little bit of tinkering, will anagram to:

ANDORRA, BURUNDI, GREECE, IRAQ and ZAMBIA! Neat puzzle :)

EDIT: An additional note on my solving process, if interested:

For completeness, I probably should say that:

- The first clue I worked out was 1 across: 'AN E RATING' is an anagram of ARGENTINA, whose football team won the men's World Cup in both 1978 and 1986. This then led to some easy deductions for NICARAGUA, AFGHANISTAN, GUINEA, HUNGARY and TANZANIA, and I was able to expand out as far as ETHIOPIA with some trial and error.

- 9 across fell into place once I had more letters in the name (BERMUDA is connected to 'mystery' through the many stories about ships and aircraft disappearing in the Bermuda Triangle). As stated above, I hadn't initially considered this a 'country' (since it's technically a British Overseas Territory), but tomayto-tomarto - it just took a lot longer to click for me.

- As for 5 across, both 'TIMOR' and 'LESTE' mean 'East' (in Malay and Portuguese respectively), but this fact about 'TIMOR' was not something I previously knew, so again I ended up fitting it only after placing more letters from my work in the bottom-right corner, where there are only 2 common countries with 13-letter names: UNITED KINGDOM and LIECHTENSTEIN. Using the latter would require BANGLADESH in 21 across, but then there aren't really any common 8-letter countries beginning with 'N' that would fit 22 down. Proof by contradiction: UK it was, then. The rest followed from some repeated trial and error, through MOZAMBIQUE, QATAR, IRAN, ZIMBABWE and so on...

- The final countries to fit for me were CONGO, PORTUGAL, PERU and PANAMA. I had CHINA in CONGO's place for a long time, but nothing was fitting with it. That was the moment when I realised I had to expand my search from the mental list of short-form names of sovereign states I've acquired from the ten years of my life I lost to Sporcle...! Finally, all solved!

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Great job. As always. In my defence about 9 across: you'll notice it is the only clue that doesn't ask for a country, but a territory. My original plan was to make the puzzle with just one clue (also solveable, I believe), but my conscience wouldn't allow me to call it a country, so I had to give the 2 extra clues! $\endgroup$ – long May 7 at 20:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ooh, that is a very fair point! Totally overlooked that technicality amid all the 'countries' there! Well played... That clue was definitely vital for differentiating the many options for 4 down. Must say, this was a great idea for a puzzle and it worked really well. I went round and round in circles at times, crossing out things I'd tentatively put in, but when it all clicked together it felt very satisfying - exactly how a good puzzle should make you feel :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv May 7 at 20:18

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