Neal

Interesting post and experience. I think that the print in the developer is masked by the colour of the developer so perhaps that explains the difference in tonality when it is removed from the developer. With regard to the print looking darker when it is drained and blotted, I would suggest that you read Barnbaun on his theory of dry down or wet up as he calls it. I have his book and will dig it out and quote his comments.

For what it is worth, I print my highlights quite light in tone and when the print is wet the highlights are paper base white but always dry down to the tone I want. I regularly test all papers that I use for dry down percentage and apply that using the drydown compensation facility in my RH Designs Stop Clock Pro Timer.

I can assure you that the reason for drydown is because the paper shrinks as it dries and consequently gets darker. I confirmed that many years ago with the Ilford technical people when I was working with them when doing pre production field tests on Ilford Warmtone paper.