Next time (if ever there is a next time) I tile anything, I need to hire someone to do the part that was onerous and a time-suck.
My plan was a good one: use Friday to remove the gunk, lay tiles on Saturday, finish the last few tiles on Sunday before Spinners, then grout on Sunday evening, move the furniture back on Monday.
I didn't count on the gunk removal being so dreadful.
However, I did finally get to start the fun stuff, but I had to leave Spinners early.
I decided that there shouldn't be cuts in front of the fireplace, or on the more public side either, so that's where I started.
After some futzing with chalk snap lines (a bit pathetic) and lots of measuring (the width of the room differs by a quarter of an inch at the two ends), I actually started with the tile, sticking it down and whatnot.
Best-laid plans and all that.
Turns out I'm not the most excellent tiler. It took me a while to get halfway decent - and really, at this point, that's all I am: only halfway decent. If I lost my job this would probably not be a viable alternative in terms of making a living, but so far, in lieu of shelling out a few times my materials costs for someone else to do the job (albeit much better), I'm satisfied with my decision to try this myself.
Perhaps if I don't put any furniture on it ever, no tiles will ever crack.