Unraveling the Rules of the New York Times Spelling Bee

As an avid fan of word games, I was thrilled when the New York Times introduced its addictively fun Spelling Bee puzzle in 2014. Over the years, I’ve become obsessed with solving each daily challenge and have picked up plenty of Spelling Bee tips and tricks along the way.

You may also like to read: How To Memorize Spelling Bee Words Fast

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to become a Spelling Bee whiz, especially the rules for the spelling bee game. Whether you’re new to the game or looking to step up your skills, you’ll learn the basics of play as well as advanced strategies to help you achieve those coveted Genius and Queen Bee statuses.

Rules of NYT Spelling Bee

How Does the Spelling Bee Work?

The Spelling Bee presents players with seven unique letters arranged in a honeycomb shape, with one letter in the center. Your goal is to make as many as Today’s Spelling Bee Possible Words using those letters, with each word containing at least four letters. 

Here are the key rules you need to know:

  • Words must include the center letter. This is the one non-negotiable rule.
  • Letters can be used more than once. For example, if you have two As, you can make words like “aaaaah” or “baas.”
  • Words must be at least four letters long. Three-letter words don’t count.
  • Our word list does not include hyphenated or proper nouns. For example, “light-year” or “Alaska” would not be accepted.

You earn points based on the length of each word:

  • 4-letter words are worth 1 point 
  • 5-letter words are worth 2 points
  • 6-letter words are worth 3 points
  • 7-letter words are worth 4 points

If you can use all seven letters in one word (known as a “pangram“), you get 7 extra points!

The daily puzzles vary in difficulty, but you must earn a certain number of points, usually in the 50-100 range, to achieve Genius status. Earning every possible point lands you the coveted Queen Bee title.

Helpful Strategies and Rules For Spelling Bee Nyt:

Solving the Spelling Bee takes a mix of vocabulary skills, creativity, and strategy. Here are some of my top tips and rules for boosting your game:

Take advantage of the shuffle button:

The shuffle button underneath the letter hive randomly rearranges the tiles. Use it liberally! Seeing the same letters in a new configuration can spark ideas for words you may have missed.

Reuse letters:

Unlike some word games, you can reuse letters in the Spelling Bee, so take advantage! For example, you may spy on the letters EENRRTT. Making the word “entertain” would earn 6 points and leave you with RRETN to make “renter” for 5 more points.

Look for prefixes and suffixes:

If you make a base word like “jump,” see if you can modify it by adding prefixes like “outjump” or suffixes like “jumping” and “jumped.” 

Mine compound words:

Keep an eye out for smaller words that could become part of a compound word using the center letter. For example, if you used S as the center letter to make “gas,” you could make “gaslight” for 6 points.

Start with 4-letter words:

Knocking out the 1-point 4-letter words first can give you a nice foundation. Then, you can build up to the longer, higher-value words.

Look for pangrams first:

On the flip side, identifying a pangram right away gives you a big boost with its 7 bonus points. Sometimes, a pangram will reveal other smaller words within it, too.

Note repeat letters:

Certain letters like S, E, A, and R appear frequently, so be on the lookout for words that double up these letters, like “eerie” or “assess.”

Check past puzzles:

Looking at previous Spelling Bee solutions can clue you into unusual words that you may not have thought of but tend to recur, like “aahed” or “sheol.”

Develop a mental dictionary:

Over time, you’ll start to notice common letter combinations that lend themselves to long words. Internalizing these go-to building blocks like ANT, OUS, ENT, and ION can help words flow.

Take a break:

If you find yourself facing a challenging puzzle, take a break and return to it later. Oftentimes, the solution becomes apparent after allowing your mind to subconsciously ponder the letters. Alternatively, you can utilize a Spelling Bee Helper as an assistant. This tool provides helpful hints, tips, and a comprehensive list of possible words for the NYT spelling bee. Give it a try; it’s a highly useful tool.


Still, have questions about mastering the Spelling Bee? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How many points do you need for Queen Bee?

You need to earn every single point possible in that day’s puzzle to achieve the Queen Bee title. This usually ranges from the high 60s to low 100s.

What time does the Spelling Bee refresh?

The puzzle refreshes at midnight Eastern time so that a new challenge will be available early each morning. 

Are names or hyphenated words accepted?

No. Words must be dictionary words with no capitalization or hyphens.

Can letters be used more than once?

Yes, letters can be reused as many times as you want within words.

Is there an app version?

Yes! The Spelling Bee game can be downloaded as a free app for iOS and Android. Your account progress syncs between the app and the website.


The New York Times Spelling Bee offers an addictive daily brain challenge. Mastering the game’s rules and using winning word search strategies takes practice, but achieving Genius or Queen Bee status is a rewarding thrill. I hope these tips help you maximize your scoring potential and get the most enjoyment out of finding each day’s hidden words.

Let the letters buzz around your brain, and don’t get discouraged if some days are tougher than others. Part of the fun is learning more words with each round you play. Now get buzzing spelling whizzes!