Well, after a sloppy start (dumping the cover's sludge into the pool) my pool has been crystal clear all season! Didn't have to shock once (again, after the sloppy start).
So, today, I brought the pool to shock level, cleaned it, pulled out the steps, and put the cover on. I didn't drain it yet, I want to run the pump a bit w/ the cover on at shock level, in case there was any stuff on the cover.
I'll drain tomorrow and pull the plug. I figure, with my new-found experience and what I've learned here, next year will be another Crystal Year!