Thursday, March 26, 2009

Gnorimoschema. Really.

Well, we can now identify the 12 smartest spellers in Dover. What an evening! You couldn't have made up a wilder story.

The first round went pretty much as one might expect, with the three teams (B-H Stingers, the Young and the Restless, and Prince 'n' Pals) in a dead heat for most of the round. The Young and the Restless (fabulous name: the teachers are young and their students are restless): Judy Cronin, Andrea Martin and Alisa Saunders, worked well under pressure alongside Prince 'n' Pals: Chickering Principal Kirk Downing, Deb Reinemann, and Sally Winslow, before the B-H Stingers-- made up of Bee Veterans Sue Geremia, Rebecca Kovrlija (a former champ), and Sara Muckstadt--edged them out and won the round, to the audible delight of their vast cheering section.

The second round nearly sunk me, and that's saying something. The Replacements (Jim Kinder, Sushil Kumar and their lovely companion, whose name escapes me at the moment) stepped out of the audience to sub for the no-show "Greatest Team Ever"--not having seen a word of the word list before that moment!--and held their own against Veteran Spellers the Town House Honey Bees and new-Bees Will Bleakley, Paul Fiore (the left-handed scribe) and Greg Kahoun (the BEE-List Celebrities). This round ran me out of words! I keep stats from prior Bees, and this year I had 3x the normal number of Killer Bee (aka extra hard) words. But we had to call a time-out and go "off the grid" because the BEE-list Celebrities and the Town House Honey Bees spelled every single word without flinching. I think they could have gone through the entire 900+ word list. We actually had to call an intermission while we looked for additional words! Between the people who hadn't studied but still knew words like endemic and erythrophobia, and the braniacs who COULD NOT be stumped by words like spaeman and coati, it was an episode of shock and awe for those of us sitting by the dictionary. We finally ended the round with potvaliant (made stronger or bolder by having drunk strong drink). The BEE List Celebrities deservedly won the round, but all 12 players get my personal standing ovation. I'll be waiting for you next year.... and your first word will be PHARAOH. You know why.

Round 3 saw the winners of our Perfect Attendance Award--the Coldwell Banker, Wellesley team (played this year by Betsy Breziner, Kathy Iovanni and Bee Veteran Laura Talmud)--pit their skills against the muscular vocabularies of Just the Neighbors (Joe Desalvo, Tom Dixon and Nancy Simms) and the Spellunkers (Tod Dimmick, who kindly offered me his dictionary during the previous round, Lori Krussell and Pamela Mok). It was a good long fight, ranging from relevant (a word I can never spell) to tatterdemalion, and finally ending in philippic. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the round was finished. I had developed onychophagia (fingernail-biting).

Round 4 pitted the baseball caps of the Dover Foundation (dressed to promote their upcoming musical, Damn Yankees, check their website and buy your tickets at: against the straw boaters of the Dover Garden Club (Bats Wheeler, Carol Hollingsworth and Lynn Petrasch) and the wildly creative soap bubble headdresses of the Clean Bees, a library team sponsored by ScrubaDub (returning veterans Karen McKoy and Ellie Herd, joined by soprano librarian Roberta Anderson). The wildest hats won the round, and the Clean Bees moved into the Championship Round--once again, the team who never used their Mulligan.

Now that you are acquainted with the players, it will come as no surprise to you that the Championship Round (no Mulligans!) blew through the standard list and went right out into the Killer Killer Bee words. These players (the B-H Stingers, the BEE List Celebrities, the Spellunkers and the Clean Bees) had no trouble with olax, haruspication or weissnichtwo. I thought for sure we'd nail somebody on phthisic, but no--everyone spelled it correctly. YIKES. We went through dysrhythmia (the winning word in 2006), vicissitude (I can never spell that, either), picklehaube (the pointy helmet German soldiers wore) and diphthong before the Spellunkers won the Bee with the word gnorimoschema. It's a kind of moth--dull-looking but its larvae set galls in plants. Now you know.

We were 6 words away from the very end of the list. The remaining words were kwashiorkor, pfefferneuss, oneiromancy, tuilyie, pteroclididae and... beestings. I firmly believe that any one of those spellers could have won. It was just amazing to watch them. Look for the replays on Channel 8. These people are incredible, and chances are you know at least some of them.

EVERYONE WHO PLAYED IS A WINNER. The Bee is a huge fundraiser for the Library, and everyone who played helped contribute to the bottom line. I can't wait to find out how the Bee Tree and Bee Cafe went. Onychophagia aside, I had a blast. I hope you did, too.

Paul Keleher kindly photographed the evening for us, and has graciously given us his link to the Bee photos: See for yourself.

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