I cannot remember ever seeing a NYT puzzle like this before. Six "cheater squares" (as I think the pros are wont to call them) at the top of the grid have been made white*, instead of black, to emphasize the diagonal lines. And at the apex of each diagonal we have two unchecked squares. Strange. And why? Because the theme is AFRAMEBUILDINGS.
And it's not just those black-square diagonals - running underneath them we have diagonal rows of As. The top left run of As extends all the way to the puzzle's edge, but none of the other three do. To me, it kind of seems like the beginning of an idea that still has some rough edges. If there had been no other As in the grid save those diagonals, or if the revealer had been the more common A-frame houses... I don't know.
I don't like it. I don't like the white squares trying to pretend they're not there. I know they're there to avoid even more unchecked squares and two-letter answers, but I still don't like it. I don't like the unchecked squares. I don't like the sloppiness of one line of As being longer than the rest, I don't like starting with ABRA...
I do, on the other hand, like the four long Down answers. ROOFGARDENS (Adjuncts to some penthouses) is lovely, and it's nice to get LIONELMESSI's full name, after seeing just his last so often. REGALED (Entertained with a story, say) is a good one, and FACEPLANT (Embarrasing fall) is fun. I even like ANTECEDE (Predate) and ANNEALER (Glassworker, at times), but I do not like JANDJ, and I don't think ALES would be "marked with 'XXX' in the comics." In my mind, anyway, those jugs contain moonshine, not some craft-brewed ale.
So not all bad, and I understand the desire to keep the themes fresh and to try new things, but this one just didn't work for me.
* The black squares were made white when solving the puzzle online through the NYT crossword site. It may not have been like that in other platforms.