One thing I can add is that, with practice, making a good print out of a negative does not take terribly long in most situations.

Last Tuesday I printed my APUG postcard challenge postcards. I made a guess based on experience. My first test print was bang on for the blacks, but there was not enough sparkle, so I added half a grade of contrast. This was a lot better. I went another half grade beyond to see if the print improved, and it did enough that I made that my final print. I could tell by experience that going higher would have started to sacrifice the tonal range.

Not all prints go this easily, but I hadn't printed in the darkroom for a few months either. My instincts as to a starting point are usually quite close.