The Buzz About The BEE

Mar 14

Are you an addictive personality? Can’t live without your morning coffee, your martini at 6, or the latest episode of Succession?

Have I got a game for you: the SPELLING BEE in the New York Times.

Those of you who are new to this, don’t be fooled by the cute little logo. This little innocuous looking puzzle can be, if taken to extremes, dangerous to your mental health. It is diabolical because it sucks you in, and BEEfore you know it you are spending unBEElieveable amounts of time trying to BEEcome the coveted QUEEN BEE.

This is my true story, for addicts everywhere.

First, some background info: The object of the game is to form as many words as possible from a group of seven letters. The rankings go up from “GOOD START” (a sop for the beginner) to “NICE” to “GREAT” to “AMAZING” to “GENIUS”(which you are clearly not or you would be discovering a cure for cancer instead of binging on puzzles). But for some of us, NOT achieving GENIUS— some by the time they finish their morning coffee—is a shock to the nervous system that will not be assuaged until we get to that level later in the day, by hook or by crook.

When I first started doing THE BEE I actually asked Google to help me by giving it the letters and asking for words. This is called cheating. And it stings me, fellow puzzlers, that I would stoop to such an unBEEcoming level.

However, after doing this puzzle for a while, getting to GENIUS was a given, so then I wanted to be a QUEEN BEE. Who wouldn’t? In order to achieve this royal honor, you have to find every single word in a rather arbitrary word list. And this can be a challenge. On Sunday, the letters were:

You must use the letter in the center of the hive-like design, the words have to be four letters or more, and you can use letters more than once. There are lots more rules, including those about proper names and naughty words:

No, you can’t use the F-bomb even if you have the K U F and the C. And what about the heartbreak of MALLOMARS? You can’t BEEgin to guess how many times I could have gotten to GENIUS if only my favorite chocolate-covered cookie were on the WORD LIST.

You get points depending on how long the words are and a bonus for a pangram, which uses all the letters in one word. This time it  was EMOTIVITY, which was pretty obscure, but getable, I guess. Well, I got it, didn’t I? BTW, that’s not a perfect pangram: a word that uses each letter only once. But for some reason, you don’t get extra points for that.

This particular day, Sunday, March 12th, having gotten the pangram and a bunch of other words, I reached GENIUS pretty quickly, but then got stuck. I went to TODAY’S HINTS, which gives you, well, hints, such as EM-4, that is, there are four words beginning with EM. I managed to get those four, and most of the others, but was hopelessly stuck on the last word, one beginning with MO. There were seven of those; I had only six. I tried everything, MOVIETIME being my favorite, then gave up and watched the Oscars. (Didn’t Lady Gaga look fabulous? And the bear ridiculous?)

This morning I got the answers from Sunday, and my missing MO word was “MOIETY.”

Moiety? Really? It’s an actual word, meaning: “Each of two parts into which a thing is or can be divided.” But give me a break. Moiety? And the thing was that the MO word I thought would bring me the royal crown and all the honey was “MOMMIE.” As in “Mommie Dearest?” It was rejected. Rejected! It’s enough to make you break out in hives— or attack someone with a wire hanger! Does the editor not remember the movie, and know that it’s a perfectly reasonable entry for a word beginning with MO? I guess not.

So on Sunday, I was NOT a QUEEN BEE but merely a GENIUS. Does that make me a hasBEEn? Or am I still the BEE’S knees, whatever that means?

“You can’t win ‘em all, Honey,” as so many have reminded me, and it is now up to me to BEE or not to BEE. You saw that one coming, hive mind, so pnow let’s all make a BEEline for yet another addition . . . WORDLE.


  1. Lucille /

    I am addicted to Wordle
    Is there a Wordle Anonymous I can join?

  2. Ellen Kolegar /

    I only do the Sunday Bee in the paper edition. It is addictive. I am one of the worker bees, haven’t been stung by the Queen yet.

    • Beware of the Bee, Ellen. Once you’ve gotten to that level, you’re not satisfied until you get to Queen.
      As I said, it’s diabolical.

  3. Patricia Cisarano /

    Nice piece~but I admit that I’m far too dumb to handle the Sunday Bee!

    • It’s not smarts, it’s the special aptitude for doing puzzles. I have it, although nothing like the people who win crossword contests and such. I wonder about Einstein? Would he have aced wordle Wordle?

  4. Joyce /

    You are a Queen Bee,Pat!

    • Not today! There are 3 pangrams (using all seven letters) and 65 words. The editor makes them harder on the weekend with the rationale that you have more time (Ha!) but I think it’s more like “You get dumber in the summer,” except that weekend doesn’t rhyme. I straining to get to Genius today, with no hope of the Royal Jelly.

  5. Louise Gikow /

    Argh. WHY did you do this to me????
    Every morning, over coffee, I do the Times Crossword (is it me or has Fridays gotten to be a bitch?) and three solitaire games. Now I have to add this to the list???? Just tried it…so frustrating! Do you really get better at it???

    • Sorry, Louise, I had no idea!
      Yes, you get better. At seeing the patterns, and also because certain words like ACAI (I knew that one) and ACACIA (I Didn’t) keep popping up as possibilities. I haven’t been doing the crossword regularly because of this, so maybe when I can get to GENIUS easily, before I finish coffee (I am VERY slow in the morning), I’ll put it aside and go back to crosswords. In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”

  6. John Becker /

    I don’t dabble, but I can see how it can be diabolical – as in BEElzebub

    • Oh, BEE a sport: but BEE prepared, this is not for dabblers. You have to BEE willing to BEE committed. Possibly literally.

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