It's not as surprising as you might think. For example, today "many an ex-pat takes it" is ESL. That answer showed up yesterday as "night school class, for short."
We can play this Common Answer game all the way back to last weekend. UNION showed up yesterday (Thursday) and Wednesday. TNOTE was in Wednesday and Tuesday. ONEAL was Tuesday and Monday, and NEED appeared in Monday and Sunday.
This seems strange because English has, say, a quarter of a million words and yet 42% of NYT puzzles have at least one answer that also appears in the previous day. In fact, nearly 150 Shortz-era puzzles have 3 or more repeats from the day before, 24 puzzles have four repeats, and on five separate occasions, 5 words have been repeated. An example: ESPY, ERASE, END, ALAI and DEER each were answers on Monday, Dec. 29 and Tueday, Dec. 30, 2003. The record is 6 answers repeated from the day before: SARA, ODOR, TIP, HAHA, CHE and ACHE on October 22 and 23, 1995. That's a Sunday to Monday transition where repeats, for reasons you can guess, are most likely.
The reasons for all this have to do with the nature of combinatorial statistics but also, of course, the environmental pressure that allows some combinations of letters to thrive in the grid while others, unable to adapt, look for different niches like physics textbooks or diaries of teenagers.
The Friday, August 29 puzzle (answers) is by Mike Nothnagel. No surprise. It's his ninth puzzle of the year and six have been Friday's. He's found his ecological niche.
As usual, it's a good one. I'll hit some of the highlights. "At the Center of the Storm" is George Tenet's book about his years leading the CIA. Ibsen and his countrymen are NORSK, pronounced norshk. Jacques TATI starred in Mon Oncle in 1958. "Sorry souls" are, indeed, PENITENTS. "Step the meek fowls where ERST they ranged" is from Emerson's Threnody. Tough clue. And this one's tricky: "Rice product." That would be Anne Rice who writes NOVELs.
I'm not sure SINUOUS is "making waves" but I guess it's ok. OCTUPLETs or twins for that matter might be infants but they might also be grandmothers. Calling them infants reminds us of how fragile multiple-birth babies are since survival is often tenuous.
My friend Danny never was able to buy the Batmobile. Too bad. I always hoped he'd give me a ride around Gotham City in it.