NYT Debut! Hoang-Kim CHECKs ALL / THE BOXES with a standard rebus, C-H-E-C-K boxed four times. Great way to kick off the theme, CHECKS AND BALANCES / MIC CHECK such jazzy entries. CHECKPOINT CHARLIE, BLANK CHECK and COAT CHECK rounded things out well.
Long across bonuses are unusual in a rebus, because the rebus boxes tend to take up huge swaths of real estate, making it difficult to work in much else. FULL OF IT and EYE TO EYE elevated my solve, although I did wonder for a minute if they were thematic.
Will often stresses that in rebuses, the rebus squares should be inside the puzzle's longest entries. It's not only more elegant and interesting that way, but solvers won't wonder how something like FULL OF IT relates to CHECKs.
I hesitated on the revealer. CHECK THE BOXES might have worked better (no ALL), at least for non-anal-irritatingly-literal crossword dissectors. Doesn't ALL the boxes imply that every square in the grid should have a check?
Bad, Jeff, bad! Turn off that coroner's brain for once and enjoy.
A couple of blips in the gridwork, ETUI notable. There are certain Maleskan triggers that get solvers rolling their eyes, and this is one. I can understand how it happened — not easy to fill that SE corner, given the overlap of CHECKPOINT CHARLIE and COAT CHECK. I'd likely have tried to make that corner smaller by shifting black squares around.
It is a Thursday, so experienced solvers will have seen ETUI before. I'd like to see it moved to Will's list of "puzzle-killers," though.
An entertaining debut, although I would have liked a more straightforward, non-interlocking set of themers, punctuated by a more accurate CHECK THE BOXES. That would have allowed for one or two more snazzy long themers, like REALITY CHECK, BOUNCED A CHECK, CHECKERED FLAG, CHUBBY CHECKER, etc.