I assume all decent language puzzles are copied from the original language to others if it makes sense to do so. So what about languages where the spelling is much more phonetic than English? Not French, but languages like German and Spanish. Is the NYT Spelling Bee a challenge in those languages?
Note that the NYT Spelling Bee, despite its name, is not a test of one’s ability to spell words correctly the way a traditional spelling bee is. The NYT Spelling Bee puzzle, it would seem to me, would work in any language where there are enough relatively short words that share the same set of letters. It’s a separate question whether a traditional spelling bee would work in languages where spelling is much more consistent and phonetic than English.
Yes, and we’ve had at least two threads on that here on the SDMB, as I learned from Discourse when composing this thread. And the answer is that they don’t.
But the NYT Spelling Bee is a different animal, so I’m wondering if they have it in German, for example. I’ve been told the general concept has been borrowed to make similar games in English. Has it been for other languages, perhaps with a different number of letters?
How do we define “easy”? The NYT spelling bee puzzle target scores change with how many possible words the letters of the day allow. And some combinations of letters are easier than others, or at least so it seems to me, even if you need a higher score to reach genius, since the scoring is based on the lengths of each word, not how obscure or “hard to guess” they are.
Another factor complicating the comparison is that we don’t know how the NYT generate their puzzles. Presumably it isn’t a completely random set of letters, so what is the algorithm or criteria for picking an actual puzzle?
Spelling in German is fairly, though not perfectly, regular. If you read a German word, and are familiar with the usual rules of German pronunciation, you will, in most cases, immediately know how to pronounce it, unless it’s a loan word from another language. The reverse isn’t necessarily true - if you know a word phonetically, you might still get the spelling wrong: There are silent letters, double consonants, or homophones that can lead you astray in spelling it. So yes, German native speakers occasionally make spelling mistakes in German. But US-style spelling bees on a competitive level are not a thing in Germany.
This NYT puzzle, however, doesn’t seem to be a spelling bee of the sort described above, where players need to give the correct spelling of a phonetically given word. Rather, they seem to be more of a Scrabble-like game, where you need to form words with given letters. Such games test the size of one’s vocabulary much more than they test your spelling abilities. And yes, Scrabble does exist in a German version.
Good point. I guess we need to ask someone who’s fluent in two languages and plays the game in both. I’m not sure there is such a person, so perhaps this was not a good question.
There’s always at least one pangram (word containing all seven letters), which means they must start with a set of words that are made up of exactly seven letters. Then they choose one of those, perhaps randomly. Then they have to choose an index letter. I suspect they pick one that will generate between some minimum and maximum number of words and that’s not been used before with the pangram. This is all guesses, but there’s not a lot of other ways to do it.
I expect Scrabble exists in every alphabetic language that has enough speakers to make it worthwhile.
Wikipedia has a list of Scrabble language versions. Looking at the list, I was surprised that Hindi and the other Indian languages with an alphabetic script are not included, despite the massive number of speakers they have. But the big Indo-European and Semitic alphabetic languages are all there.
I don’t know the answer to this question or the answer to the FQ, but I do know that they never use an S and you can generate your own spelling bees at New York Times Spelling Bee Solver | William Shunn. It’s a little tricky finding seven letters that don’t have too many or too few answers.
BTW, the Bee part of the name also comes from the fact that the puzzle looks like a honeycomb. I don’t see why they would be easier in other languages.
The puzzle is trivial to construct. Take a word that has 7 distinct letters: OUTRIGHT, for example. Then mix up the letters, say
Then filter your dictionary to include only words of 5 or more letters that are made up exclusively of those seven letters and also use the letter U. There’s your puzzle.
Although this example does depend somewhat on the peculiarities of English spelling, they mostly don’t and I can’t see any reason you couldn’t do this in any alphabetic language. The only complication would be in languages that use diacritics, but I would be inclined to ignore them. What do French and German Scrabble do?
To me, “vocabulary” implies that one knows the meanings of the words as well as their spelling. Scrabble (at least at the competitive level) is much more an exercise of memorization (of all the legal Scrabble words) and pattern recognition (where to play a word for maximum points). You don’t have to understand the language at all: