September 11, 2023 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Getting to Genius, Part I (NYT gift link, here's Part II) On improving one's skills in Spelling Bee, the New York Times daily word puzzle.

(I'm a king bee, you can call me queen bee.)
posted by box (28 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We doing bee threads today? Okay. The great potato thread confluence a while ago was fun.
posted by Naberius at 7:58 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

Oh man, I hate how much of my life I've wasted on Spelling Bee. Weirdly I play it way less now that you can work on a puzzle for more than a day? Without the deadline I'm like "meh, no urgency" so I just kinda dabble rather than trying to get Genius every day. I assume that was the opposite of what they were trying to achieve but for me the simplicity of one puzzle a day, get it done or die trying, made it a lot more compelling.

TBH maybe Spelling Bee jumped the shark for me once they added Hints. Took me from someone who could usually get Genius if I was really persistent, to someone who could get a Queen Bee pretty consistently if I worked at it. Where's the challenge...where's the mystique
posted by potrzebie at 8:02 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

I refuse to try for Queen Bee. I don't want to get sucked into another level of commitment to this game. Though my Games sub expired two days ago anyway so now i just try to get a pangram before they block me.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:25 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

1. the idea of giving up once started is not in the range of my abilities.
2. There was a certain amount of bragging in social media circles, and I had to back away from that too
3. At least twice a week there were perfectly acceptable words that they decided were not, in fact, acceptable and to me that was wildly, I'm-gonna-write-a-letter-to-someone! unacceptable.

So I quit. But it is fun, for someone not me.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:34 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]

I am only here reading this thread as I am at an impasse in the current Spelling Bee and needed a break to clear my head.
posted by caddis at 8:37 AM on September 11

My daily goal for Spelling Bee is to at least get to Amazing, the second-to-last level before Genius. I find that getting to Genius (outside of the occasional very small solution set) typically involves a level of squeezing blood from the stone that takes it from a pleasant morning diversion to an actual stressor in my life.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:42 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]

I try to get to Great on my first round with Spelling Bee. If I remember or have time, I'll come back and strive for higher. I do quit at Genius, though. Trying for Queen Bee brings out the ugly in me.
posted by mollweide at 8:55 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

It helps to remember the sisters, words that are always both there (if one is valid, the other is too), like the NANA and NAAN of the FPP title, as well as ACAI and ACACIA, BAND and BANDANNA (and BANDANA because variants), LABIA, LABIAL and BILABIAL etc etc.
posted by chavenet at 8:58 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

My favorite combo is BABOON BANANA BONOBO. The other day when we could add GIBBON I was so happy.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 9:16 AM on September 11 [8 favorites]

I started doing the Spelling Bee in 2021, and then hooked my wife into it. Iniitally it was kind of a fun puzzle to pickup at different times in the day and I'd see how far I'd get to over the course of that day. Since my wife started doing it, we've fallen into this very comfortable routine of jointly solving the Bee (and the Crossword and Wordle) over breakfast. We use my account and I solve on my phone while she borrows my iPad.

For the Bee, our general rule is that we quietly work on it separately while eating breakfast until we individually get to Genius and identify at least one pangram. Non-spoilery commentary about real words that they exclude are allowed, as is general generic kvetching about inconsistent logic in what is a valid word and what isn't.

Then we compare our words and fill in what the other has missing. Then, if we're not at Queen Bee yet, we look at the hints and see how far to go and make a call about whether we're close enough to go for it, or just move on to Wordle. She is much more invested in Queen Bee than I am and is more willing to try for it, while I think about other stuff that I have to do that morning, but it's become a nice ritual for us so I indulge it because no other chore is usually more important than her company.

Also we do find that the conversation and comparison is extremely helpful for cementing some common words in our memory (ie. 'splaining to each other that if you have BOON you can also have BONOBO and BONBON, and you can take petty joy in that despite it being NYT, they have yet to give a concession to David Brooks to permit BOBO as a valid word)
posted by bl1nk at 9:20 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

I do all the puzzles first thing to get them out of the way. For the bee I will always use hints and the forum at the end because there are almost always strange words that Americans are more likely to know. But I get QB pretty much every day and also get annoyed about the common words that are missing. Getting letter boxed down to 2 words I can do sometimes but I don't sweat it.
posted by bifurcated at 9:41 AM on September 11

I got Queen Bee once and as far as I was concerned that was good enough after a couple of months of concerted focus. I occasionally play when I want to waste a few minutes in the morning and that’s it.
posted by Peach at 9:43 AM on September 11

This post encouraged me to give it a go, and I got 14 words before that one scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail hijacked my brain.
I can't think of any other words besides "oooo" (an exclamation indicating surprise and alarm; see also "AAHHH". not to be confused with "agghhh".)
posted by Baethan at 9:45 AM on September 11

I refuse to try for Queen Bee

Yeah on principle I am just not interested in guessing at the last three words that they saw fit to accept. The logic here is a little dubious, I know, because the whole thing is governed by the same arbitrary word list, but actually going for completion just seems like a special kind of torture.
posted by atoxyl at 9:59 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]

I play every day with the goal of at least getting to Genius and finding a pangram and it's a rare day when I don't achieve that. (But I failed to find "impalpable" when that was the pangram last week.) I sometimes get Queen Bee but often don't have time to pursue it. If I know I'm getting close to Queen Bee but I'm stuck I sometimes look at the hints page but I only look at the total number of words and total points and not anything below that. If I know there's only one word left and it must be a 5-letter one, that's sometimes all it takes to help me find it.

For a long time "doodad" was one of my nemesis words but I've gotten better at remembering to check for it. "Cocoon" is another one I still tend to miss. I hate it when there are a lot of compound words because I always have a hard time finding them all. And I hate how random it is about what words it lets you add prefixes or suffixes to.
posted by Redstart at 10:38 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]


help the buzzing in my brain

finding POOP then the hook NINCOMPOOP the other day was Very Satisfying.
posted by lalochezia at 10:41 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]


(got POOP, so I have that going for me at least)
posted by Flunkie at 10:49 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

My wife and I do the Spelling Bee together every day. We generally get to genius without resorting to the grid or clues, but every now and then even that eludes us. We'll pull up the Buddy to get to Queen Bee, but we try to wait until after we've gotten to genius on our own. Every now and then we'll resort to actual hints if something is eluding us, but those often result in some grumbling. And +1 on nemesis words.

We regularly make fun of Sam Ezersky's eating habits, though. For a while MIRIN didn't work, but that one seems to have made the list recently. NAAN and ROTI are acceptable, and so are BLIN and BLINI, but TORTA is not. Ezersky's idea of what words would be commonly known seems to be very NYC focused, so I guess the old saw that you can't get good Mexican food there plays out in the Spelling Bee.
posted by fedward at 10:51 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

Ezersky uses two dictionaries, which is where I think part of the problem in terms of inclusion and exclusion comes from. If you only use one dictionary, it may be arbitrary but it's not an editorial decision.
posted by chavenet at 10:58 AM on September 11

BENNE seeds are another food that Sam Ezersky has never eaten, apparently.

Also every time CATARRH comes up I remember reading the old newspaper ads printed on the tables at Wendy's when I was a kid. It was such a weird word. (From that list: I found DEMIMONDE early, and my wife teaches Greek drama so she was mad that she needed a hint to find HAMARTIA, but ARHAT is a word we only know because we do the puzzles every day).
posted by fedward at 11:00 AM on September 11

I honestly don't understand why it has a limited word list in the first place.

It makes it feel more like you're trying to profile the puzzle constructor rather than trying to find words.
posted by zymil at 5:16 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

Where is Queen Bee defined? We’ve been playing for weeks and haven’t encountered the term.
posted by gubo at 7:03 PM on September 11

Queen Bee is getting all the allowable words. It only shows up in game if you actually get it.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:15 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

I honestly don't understand why it has a limited word list in the first place.

Every word game has a limited word list. Jargon, science words, spelling variations, archaic words, slang, loan words, slurs and obscenities - every game has to take a stand on these types of words.

If you have ever played Word Blitz, it has one of the most expansive words lists I have come across and it is a disaster of inflected forms and that could work but don't really exist and minor and obscure spelling variations. You can just put random shit in and hope for the best once you run out of real words. You could never set a coherent goal for Spelling Bee with all those sorta but not really words on the list.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:23 PM on September 11

The moderators have been nice enough to let me post this before: I wrote a game modeled on Spelling Bee that I described in the projects section. It’s called Spellbound and runs in any browser, free, no ads, no data shared with anyone.

A number of fellow Mefites have played and have left some nice comments.

posted by AMyNameIs at 7:35 PM on September 11 [6 favorites]

My husband and I play together. We usually work on it separately during the day and then work together at meals until we hit genius. Last night, reading this thread, was the first time I heard there was a Queen Bee level. He and I went into shock and then agreed that we were happy with Genius, especially when I saw how many words we would need to find to get to Queen Bee last night.
posted by ceejaytee at 7:43 AM on September 12

I do wonder if NYT or Ezersky ever experimented with showing the QB point or word threshold to players as another tier above Genius and then took it out when players found it to be too dis-spiriting. As many have mentioned, it gets rather hard to go from Amazing (the tier below Genius) to Genius. By then, you've often exhausted all of the low-hanging fruit and are just shuffling the letters looking for new patterns. Genius to QB is like another step up in challenge.

My wife and I have only ever gotten to QB without looking at the hints (to see # of total words or # of total points) a handful of times, and that was usually a case where the Genius threshold was below 80 points, so there's just a much lower number of potential words to guess. It feels like a bit of magic when we do it cooperatively, but I also know that I could never manage it alone nor would I find it fun to do alone.
posted by bl1nk at 8:22 AM on September 12

I do wonder if NYT or Ezersky ever experimented with showing the QB point or word threshold to players as another tier above Genius and then took it out when players found it to be too dis-spiriting.
I feel pretty sure that I've been doing Spelling Bee literally since its release. Not 100% sure, I guess, but that's more a general lack of confidence in my own brain rather than a specific doubt about how long I've been playing Spelling Bee. Queen Bee was, in my experience, never not hidden.
posted by Flunkie at 12:30 PM on September 13 [1 favorite]

« Older two bees   |   Never Remember Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments