I finally got around to the kanji-cramming. It certainly seems like the start is by far the worst, when it's been a while since you did your last crunch and now you've got all-new kanji that you don't recognize. But breaking the surface, so to speak, the ride has gotten significantly smoother. (Having a system that I know works helps a lot, too.) I'm pretty sure I'll learn most of the 200 or so new kanji for December's test (and also rehearse the previous 500).
What I'm doing currently is that I've split them up so at first I'll only be cramming the first 100, and when I know those I'll move on to the rest.