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> BTW, is there a tool that can parse a Lua script to spot syntax
> errors?

Best is to add a metatable to globals _G that errors on index. Put
this on top of your program.

  local mt = getmetatable(_G) or {}
  mt.__index = function(k) error("Global "..k.." does not exist", 2) end
  setmetatable(_G, mt)

And then just dont code in a way, that globals validly be filled with nil.