How does NYT Spelling Bee work?

How Does NYT Spelling Bee Work

Seven simple letters can cause so much grief. The point of the New York Times spelling bee is to collect enough points to earn the title of Genius for the day. The number of points changes each day and can vary wildly, from low 50s to high 200s.

You earn points by making words only with the seven letters presented. The only requirement in making words is you must use the center letter in the word. You can use any of the letters as often as you like in the word.

Players earn one point for finding a four-letter word, and one point per letter for words with five letters or more. So a seven-letter word earns you seven points.

Pangram Bonus Points

If a player users all seven letters to form a word, then that word is known as a Pangram and you will get an extra seven points for finding that word. It’s often hard to get to Genius level.

Some of the words are common. Some of them are not. Some, you will argue are not even words. Some words are lesser-known variations of words you may already know. Some of them are how you spell out different sounds. It can be a little maddening to

The most disturbing is when you type something in, and you swear up and down it is not a word. I’ve found words that are only proper nouns, tend to not be included. In addition, offensive words tend to not be included. Words that are primarily not English words seem to also be excluded.

What if I’m Not a Genius?

That’s okay, I love you anyway. On the road to becoming a Spelling Bee Genius, players work their way through several levels: Beginner, Good Start, Moving Up, Good, Solid, Nice, Great, and Amazing. The jump from Amazing to Genius is by far the hardest to make. You can usually get to Solid or Nice without too much extra effort.

Spelling Bee Queen Bee

There is also a hidden level. If you get every word, you earn the title of Queen Bee. This is incredibly difficult to do, for the reasons I mentioned. It usually involved finding really archaic and low-frequency words. My best performance was I was one word short of Queen Bee, and I never would have come up with that last word.

At the end of day, that is how the New York Times Spelling Bee Works.


  1. How does one find what the genius level is on any given day?

    • If you click on the scale (line with yellow dots on it) over your word list it will open up the Ranking dialog box. There you find the point values for each of today’s rankings from Beginner to Genius.

  2. How do you find out you’re a Queen Bee? Does it do something special when you hit the last word?

  3. I am having a debate on Spelling Bee rules. I did not know if my spelling of today’s panagram was correct. So instead of typing my guess I looked it up in the dictionary. And lo and behold I was correct. My wife believes that is cheating. What say you?

    I said to her that using trial and error to spell a word correctly should not be allowed since the name of the game is spelling bee. In a spelling bee you only get one chance to spell the word correctly. What is your thought on that issue as well?

    • I think whatever makes the game enjoyable to you is valid. People will guess at words all the time, so not sure if double-checking in the dictionary is much different.

  4. Why does the game end, sometimes after I enter 6 or 8 words and other times after a dozen?

    • I think because you don’t pay for a NYT Games subscription.

  5. What time in the AM does spelling bee refresh for the new day?

  6. Why does the game abruptly end, sometimes after I enter 6 words, and other times after a dozen?

  7. How does the administrator of the game determine the numerical score necessary to achieve “genius” level?

    • It doesn’t let you do that. Once it’s the next day, the time has passed for that game.


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