Categorized | Features, Laurie's Scribbles

The ‘Spelling Bee’ is Addicting, Fun & Torturous

spelling bee

Laurie (r) and her mom, Marilyn, play “Spelling Bee” to take the edge off these stressful times. 

By Laurie Stone

Life is stressful. But there’s one thing my mom and I do that takes the edge off. The New York Times publishes a daily game called “The Spelling Bee.” You’re given seven letters — each encased in its own hexagon, like the cells of a bee hive (get it?) — to make as many words of at least four letters as you can.

Six of the hexagons are arranged around a center hexagon, making a flower shape, similar to the ones we drew as kids. Each letter can be used more than once in a word, but the center letter has to be in each word. The longer the word, the more points and a bonus is awarded if all seven letters are used in a single word.

What’s so hard about finding a bunch of nouns and verbs? Ha! This game can be a huge pain, but there are some surprising benefits.


I can barely remember my name early in the morning, let alone root out adjectives and adverbs. So, I like how doing this puzzle jumpstarts my brain. Some people plow through and find half — even all — the possible words at once. Mom and I are “grazers,” people who pick it up throughout the day, like the knitting.

mother, worrying, hopeful, boys, asleep, pedometerIn its own way, “Spelling Bee” takes my mind off the world’s issues. And there’s something else we’ve noticed — “fresh eyes” help. You can gaze at this thing until you’re cross-eyed and see nothing. Then you’ll pick it up later and five words appear like magic. Maybe there’s a lesson there.


Sometimes the words start popping like corn kernels in hot oil. Then I hit “the wall,” so to speak. How can there be more? I’ve come up with 30. But judging by the score, I’m only halfway through. Then there’s the “pangram” (sometimes several) — the words that use each letter and have the most points. Sometimes a pangram is simply two small words strung together like “typeface.” Other times they’re looking for “armadillo.”

The next day Mom and I check to see what words we missed. Once in a while, only one got away. Other times there are several — most we never heard of. And then sometimes there’s a bunch of words we should’ve gotten but didn’t. Sigh. We’re only human.


After dinner, mom and I compare scores. It’s embarrassing to admit how often my 80-something-year-old mother beats me. But she’s an avid reader and loves the English language as much as I do. One time (between the two of us) we got the highest score, the lauded Queen Bee, where you find every possible combination.

But that was once. Usually we get to “Genius,” which feels good, too. That means we got most of the words so we can at least hold our heads high. Then there are nights we’ve come up with 50 words between us and still aren’t close.

From what I’ve read, “Spelling Bee” is buzzing around the globe a lot these days. “Hivers” include lawyers, students, surgeons, politicians and housewives.

Who knew? Mom and I aren’t the only ones needing distraction.

Laurie Stone writes from the woods of Easton, Conn. Her blog, “Musings, Rants &Scribbles,” shares thoughts on growing up, older and (hopefully) wiser. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

One Response to “The ‘Spelling Bee’ is Addicting, Fun & Torturous”

  1. Your post is the gentle nudge I needed to give this a try! I get the daily email from the NYT but wasn’t completely sure how to play the game (and was too lazy to look up the instructions). Now I know. I love playing with words, so now I have another good distraction and way to engage my brain. Thanks!


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