I played this several times over the holidays with my folks and we all enjoyed it immensely. Dad, who's usually pretty finicky about games, actually requested to play it one night. (This is a rave review.) Unfortunately there were several points where we were not clear about what we could and could not do in the game. These are the boundaries we established.
In round one, we allowed conversations. The guesser could ask any questions of the cluegiver, and they could freely converse until the guesser blurted out the correct name. However:
We had nothing but trouble with "sounds like", so we disallowed rhyme clues.
"His first name rhymes with Egg."
But if you got the guesser to say a rhyming word, you could use it as a clue.
"That word you just said rhymes with his first name!"
"His first name rhymes with what you make an omelette with."
There was very little attempt to get around the "no spelling" rule, so we never made a ruling on indirect spelling.
"What you just said starts with the same letter as his first name."
We also never brushed up against the nickname rule.
"Another name for Willy is...?"
At the end of the round, someone quickly read out all the names. If anyone requested it, we did a bio lookup in the booklet. This is the only time we allowed a lookup!
"Ok, so who the hell is Boutros Boutros-Ghali? And how the hell did you get me to say it without knowing who he is?"
In rounds 2 and 3, kibosh on the convo. Penalty counts as a pass, move on to the next card. Nearly anything the cluegiver said, we counted as a guess. There were exceptions, though:
We'd allow comments that weren't specific to the current card
"Stop tapping the top of the timer!"
And even game reminders
"Don't pass so quickly, give me a chance to say a name!"
Lead in comments were ok, too
"The answer has to be George Jetson."
"The diver, Greg Louganis."
Minor name stumbling was generally forgiven.
"Macsomething ... Macarthur. Douglas MacArthur?"
But if it ever slipped past a monologue, we made them pass.
"Is this the same guy you were trying to do last time?"
We also did not allow names that had flat-wrong pronunciations
"Ah, you're doing Jeopardy, Alex Troobek." (Trebek)
If the first name is wrong, that's it, you missed it, move on
"General James MacArthur"
In all rounds, after a turn ends, no clue-blurting. However, since there was no "you screwed up, move to the next card" penalty, this was barely policed by peer pressure.
We commonly tried to get the other team to spit out their guess of our clues. (Yeah, sneaky, I know, but all in good fun.)
"I can't believe you didn't get that! Patty got it, right Patty?"
But telling your team mate what it was would generally get you a boo, but not much else.
"Gene Roddenberry, not George Lucas! Geeze!"
"Hey, no blurting!"
Talking during the other team's turn happened egregiously, but only if it was in good fun. Trying to make the other team's guesser laugh instead of paying attention was commonly accepted, although it would sometimes get you a dirty look.
"Hey, Dad, are you doing an impression of Mom?"
Clue-stealing was common and accepted. This was often how you'd clean up the final few cards in round three.
Me: (foot: thump thump thump)
Mom: "Bugs Bunny?"
Patty: (foot: thump thump thump)
Mom: "Oh, Thumper!"
Setting up card-pantomime mneomincs while the other team was playing was not allowed, and is just bad form.
"Huh, so how would you George Jetson?"
What house rules have other players established?
If you are not having fun, then you are missing the point.
What you have described above, I would not call "House Rules". It describes almost exactly the way that we play, and (of course, in my opinion) the way that the game should be played.
No Rhyming words, no nicknames, no spelling. You're missing out on the fun of the game if you allow those kinds of things in.
A lot of heckling in encouraged, as long as the guesser is ok with it. If the guesser says "be quiet", then you can be quiet for 30 seconds. After the timer is up, let the heckling continue!
I'm glad that you're enjoying the game. We haven't played in a while due to all the new different games that we have, but we always have a great time playing Time's Up and it's still our #1 party game by far.
The rules actually specifically state that rhyming, name variations and spelling are explicitly prohibited. However, some other specifics worth mentioning:
Don't look over another's shoulders. You'll spoil what's coming, and give your team an unfair advantage.
In rounds 2-3, we play that when you pass or flub a card, it's gone for the round. This is important because when there are only a few cards left, you shouldn't get a second chance. This is specifically important in round 2 when you could conceivably get multiple words by passing and returning to the same card.