Spelling Bee semifinals, live
Live updates of the Friday morning Spelling Bee semifinals. The championship round arrives Friday night on ABC. For a primer on what you need to know, see here.
14:37: Ok, some of my outrage was misplaced. The sixth rounders who haven't yet gotten a word will have to try tonight, so the round will begin mid-stream during the primetime broadcast. If these sixth rounders miss their first word, they'll have the same ranking as those who have already been eliminated. But trust me, that doesn't satisfy the kids who just got eliminated.
13:58: Bud Selig? Jim Joyce? They've got nothing on this crew. They just stopped Round Six midway through and gifted the final six contestants into the championship round. Those six -- who came at the end BASED ON THE ALPHABETICAL ORDER OF THEIR HOME STATES -- had to spell one fewer word than everyone else? The people who got eliminated just before must be furious. And now they're trotting Shaq out? What a farce. What an absolute farce. I'm done with this.
13:53: And Neetu Chandak gets dinged again, this time on "apogalacteum." No ovation this time. The Daily News kid, Arvind Mahankali, is also dinged. Of the 13 spellers to go in this round, only four have survived.
13:47: But Potomac's Lanson Tang makes it through with "rhabdomyoma." He'll be in the finals. He's sponsored by The Meakem Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Bethesda, and he loves sports. Can't wait to ask him about John Wall.
13:45: Guarnerius, something about violins, fells Gina Liu. This round has now claimed seven of the first nine spellers.
13:41: And now it's six out of seven. This has the potential to be a disaster. David Stern is making the phone call now, ordering up an easier slate of words.
13:37: Jacque Bailly is the reaper. Five out of the first six in this round are donesy. This is becoming an issue.
Also, of the 14 still alive, only six are boys. Apparently boys have won eight of the last 10 years.
13:25: And with 19 of the 32 spellers still alive, we're going into Round Six. This will be the last one before the championship round, and it starts with Jeremiah Cortez getting ousted on "favilla."
13:21: Hot drama. The previously eliminated favorite Neetu Chandak is invited back on stage, due to the "ambiguous answers" she was given to her repeated questions about the origins of "paravane. "We feel you should be reinstated in the Bee," she's told, to applause. "Thank you so much," she says. Then she tries to sit down, but is escorted off the stage to get a new placard.
During the next commercial break, all the kids, video cameras and photographers crowd around her. The previously eliminated Sonia Schlesinger envelops her in a hug, but is then asked to leave. Apparently she's being credited with a correct word. Bud Selig, are you paying attention? Jim Joyce, are you here? What the bloody heck is happening?
13:19: This is now preempting SportsCenter.
13:15: One of the remaining favorites, Aditya Chemudupaty, always spells with his hands tucked into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. Very calm. He also "really likes Tony Romo," according to his bio, and says his favorite novel is The Lost Symbol. Yikes. That book was awful.
13:09: And we have confirmation that Shaq is here. Apparently he's filming some sort of bit with the champion spellers for his reality show.
13:08: Puerto Rico's Julianna M. Canabal-Rodriguez -- whom I met on Thursday -- handles "bacalao." Her mom whoops. Loudest mom here, for sure.
13:03: The AP's Joseph White reports that he's been told Shaq is in this hotel. That'd be odd. He could step on several of the spellers without noticing.
13:00: ESPN's broadcast is scheduled to end at 1. They're not even through Round Four yet, and there are at least 14 spellers through, with seven still to go. ESPN suits are sweating.
12:59: No disrespect to George Jose, who could spell me under the table, but "aufgaba" doesn't really look German. I'd have been much more likely to go with "aufgabe.," which was the right answer.
12:49: And another giant has been felled. Neetu Chandak, a 14-year-old from upstate New York, had been here four straight years, advancing to the top 10 a year ago. She gets ousted on "paravane," after wrangling with it for several awkward moments. "Oh, well," she said, as the ovation cascaded around her. I'm telling you, all class, these kids. There's a delicate sense of history and tradition here, not unlike in baseball.
12:44: Another Indian cuisine word. Thursday it was "masala." Friday it's "lassi." Both times, the words were given to white kids. Hannah Evans, little sister of former spelling star Matthew, got this one wrong, going with "lasse." I think this is the first time in my four years covering this event that I knew a final-day word one of the kids missed. Plus, now I'm thirsty.
12:37: Lanson Tang, the strapping deep-voiced lad from Potomac, nails "gaminerie" after his peers had missed three straight words. The hopes of an entire region rest on those young shoulders, Lanson.
12:29: Dialog of the day, again starring former D.C. resident Sonia Schlesinger.
SS: "Um, it's my birthday, so could I please have, like, a gift?"
Bailly: "I'll try. I've got a lot of good words. Lorimer."
SS: "Um, could i have a different one please?"
Bailly: "I'm not sure you'd like the next one any better."
She missed, going with "laurimer." And we're down to two DMV connections.
12:27: Whoa, Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight was just name-checked in a spelling bee sentence. Something about using statistics to predict whether he'd eat a burrito.
12:25: "A rumbling sound made by the movement of gas in the intestine." This is actually a useful word. Too bad it's impossible to pronounce. Wait, I can think of another word that means roughly the same thing, and it only has four letters. Unlike "borborygmus." Which Gina Liu spelled correctly.
12:18: Hard for me to judge, since I couldn't spell "blog" correctly (see above), but the words to be of a similar difficulty level in Round Five. Exactly one-third of the spellers missed in Round Four, and of the first nine attempts in Round Five, three went awry. We're a ways from getting down to 12 or so finalists.
12:02: The first speller of Round Five, Esther Park (pictured above), is gone.
12:00: The fourth round is over. Of 48 spellers, 32 survived. Figure two more rounds before the championship field of about a dozen spellers is set.
11:57: The word was "mesclun." I sure wish it had been "mescaline."
11:54: And Dr. Bailly uses Erin Andrews's name in a sentence. Someone wants page views.
11:51: OMG!!!!!!! Centreville's Tim Ruiter, who tied for second a year ago and was D.C.'s great home in 2010, just crashed out on "fustanella." He spelled it "fustinella." I thought D.C.'s sports luck was changing. Still have three local connections. Ruiter exited to a sustained, whooping ovation from both the audience and the other spellers. Pure class.
11:45: Man, no one gives a high five quite like a successful speller. Imagine attempting to squash a giant mosquito on a wall from six inches away. Also, Puerto Rico's Julianna M. Canabal-Rodriguez -- whom I met on Thursday -- is through to the next round.
11:30: One favorite, Anamika Veeramani (5th a year ago), has no trouble with osteomyelitis. Another, Nicholas Rushlow, misses "devant" and departs in tears.
11:22: Things you miss during the commercial breaks: mothers on stage fixing their kids' collars. Staff members passing out plastic cups of water. Producers moving kids around like chess pieces. Nervous laughter.
11:20: New Zealand's Tom Winter crashes out on phytoplankter. Another swell accent, gone.
11:17: "A light, stroking movement used in massage." -- actual definition, appropriately given to the New York Daily News-sponsored speller. He got it right. The word was "effleurage."
11:14: The bubbly Neetu Chandak, here for the fourth straight year, cruises through "sederunt." She seems to be quite popular with her peers.
11:07: Another great name: Dakota Jones from Vegas. Too bad he misses on "tiralee," neglecting the final "e." Also a shame: a competitor named Dylan Thomas was eliminated on Thursday, going gently into that good nite.
10:58: And Potomac's Lanson Tang has no problem with "flabellum." Four of the 40 remaining spellers have Washington connections. Stand up, D.C.
10:50: Bailly says happy birthday to former D.C. competitor (and current Tokyo resident) Sonia Schlesinger, leading to a round of applause. She has fits with muniments, having to repeat it over and over again, and glancing nervously at the clock. When she gets it, she whoops and earns at least six high fives on her way back to her chair, then another high five and a hug during the break. Turns out her dad writes for the Wall Street Journal.
10:48: The Jamaicans always are fan favorites, due to accents and their curious insistence on calling the pronouncer "Dr. Bailly" repeatedly. Plus, this year's entrant -- Owayne Rodney -- has the name most like a potential World Cup star. Two letters off. He just got dinged on desipience, though.
10:43: By my count, 16 of the remaining 43 competitors wear glasses.
10:39: Five straight correct answers, none of which I've ever heard of: inconcinnity, scalare, caducous, venturi and forzato. No, not Ken Venturi, but that's the only reason I'd have gotten it right.
10:38: You'll notice many of the competitors wearing large bright letters on their shirts this year. Those are the official t-shirt giveaway this year, and the kids have been wearing them everywhere. The first one I saw was a large letter X, and on blog's honor, I thought he was making a political statement. Other kids have used their shirts to spell out "ESPN.
10:34: ESPN goes with the Erin Andrews interview with Vanya Shivashankar, the 8-year old younger sister of last year's champion, who was herself eliminated on Thursday. Before the piece, they gave each other a huge hug and giggled. You can only hear bits and pieces of the interview from inside the room, and the spellers on stage seem uncomfortable.
10:30: Apologies for the late start, and the carnage has already begun here in the Grand Hyatt's Independence Ballroom. Five of the 48 semifinalists have been sent home, including three of the last six to spell. (Though no notable favorites.) Former Comcast SportsNet Sage Steele is here, making her ESPN Spelling Bee debut. And Erin Andrews is, of course, here again, though she doesn't make the spellers swoon.
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