When you play the New York Times spelling bee, and then it says word not found, it is infuriating. I know it’s word. Everyone else knows it’s a word, but why does it not show up and give you those six hard earned points? Well, it’s because it’s usually a different dictionary than we think it should be using.
According to the New York Times, we don’t really know what dictionary it uses. Why is that? Well it officially, “Spelling Bee has a separate curated word list that strives to incorporate commonly used words, with a couple challenging words from time to time.”
Well that doesn’t seem to help. Here is what I have figured out. Words that only exist as proper names do not count. So JOHN is okay, while JONATHAN probably would not be. Archaic words are fair game. Words you would never want to say to your mother are not going to be valid Spelling Bee words.
Some words appears to be how you might spell out a sound. Some are the uncommon, lesser-known variations of common words.
All this is to say, use your basic knowledge, and then just go from there. There is no time penalty or score penalty for entering a word that is not a valid Spelling Bee word. Does it really matter what dictionary it is, because if the Spelling Bee says it’s a word, then well, it’s a word, because you’ll gladly take those points every time.