Debut! I like the boldness of debuting with not just a themeless, but a low-word-count one. Will gets a lot of themed submissions (for Mon-Thurs, plus Sun), but he gets a FLOOD of themelesses for just two slots a week. When newer constructors come to me, wanting to start their construction careers with a themeless, I do everything I can to persuade them to do a themed instead. Not only are they much easier to construct, but there's the basic principle of supply and demand at work here.
Most newer constructors do 70- or 72-word grids, because 66-word grids are maybe five times harder to fill with color and cleanliness. Perhaps it's more like 10x.
I liked a lot of what Ben and James did today. NETFLIX AND CHILL is something relatively new to this aged-feeling 46-year old, but it's undoubtedly something the kids say these days. I was more in tune with that interesting NW corner, replete with STILL LIFE, ANTOINETTE, RENT A COP, INTIFADA, PTOLEMY — the CLASSICS!
Not a fan of ILLE, AREEL, or ARE I, but those were worth it for me, to get so much greatness up there.
It's too bad that there was more APLAN, LAC, and the rough crossing of HOTH / TORTES (HATH / TARTES could easily feel correct if you're not a Star Wars fanboy). I felt like if the puzzle had been kept to ILLE, AREEL, ARE I, it could have garnered POW! consideration. As it was, just a touch too much inelegance overall.
Sometimes I wonder if my threshold of "how much crossword glue is too much" is too strict. There's a ton of great fill in this one — BUTT DIALED, BITE-SIZED, AHOY THERE, and my beloved FLIP PHONE I only gave up two years ago. Some would argue that half a dozen dabs of crossword glue were a good trade-off for so much sizzle. And I think there's some validity to that line of reasoning.