Forty-one spellers entered Round 4. To see how they got here, click here. At least two sports writers are on press row, myself and the AP's Joseph White, the master of Spelling Bee coverage. And now, some live blogging.
11:31: Round 4 concludes. Forty-one began, and 36 remain. Parents run up to offer words of encouragement, photographers swarm the remaining contestants, a few of them gather in groups, and the two-and-a-half minutes flit by. Round 5 better be significantly more challenging, to get the field down to about a dozen for tonight's finals.
11:28: Back-to-back Virginians. Aspiring video game designer Andrew Traylor from Charlottesville cruises through on louche, and Tim Ruiter of Centreville
Reston handles radiomimetic. They'll be carrying the torch for the DMV.
11:13: Little Nicholas Rushlow, with the Bichon Frise puppy named after a bizarre spelling word, is asked to repeat "noisette" about a 17 times, to make sure he's pronouncing it correctly. It's some sort of piece of meat. "Gail couldn't keep her eyes off the piece of noisette in her date's teeth," is the sentence. The sentences have definitely been more humorous this year. Anyhow, Rushlow gets the word right. Still only five dings.
11:00: Another blow to the producers, as cute little nine-year old Sriram Jagadeesh Hathwar goes down on fodient. The crowd exhales, loudly. Everyone roots for the nine-year olds.
Apropos of nothing, one speller told me yesterday that he was made to remove his shirt, because the Ralph Lauren logo was against the rules. The boys today have mostly gone with striped polo shirts (no name brand there), with a few ties mixed in. Most are leaving the shirts untucked, like repeat semifinalist Zachary Zagorski, who just made it through on "toile." Definition?
"Either the toile upholstered sofa goes, or I do." More yuks.
10:54: Michael Sun from New Jersey gives us a moment to remember. He's told his word, "coaming"
koming, has a homonym; "Great," he says. He asks for any alternate definitions, and is told "we aren't giving that information." "Does that mean no?" he asks.
Then he asks about the homonym and is told he can't have that; "oh, darn," he says. "I bet you know," the pronouncer tells him.
Sun goes down, trying "koming," and then Kevin Drew from Buffalo also falls, on "triquetra." He added an "i" in there. That's four gone out of the pool of 41 semifinalists.
10:50: More yuks from the crowd, as American Idol is used in the definition for "nescience." Avvinash Radarkrishan plays Kris Allen, and hits it.
10:46: And the first word of the day that I could have actually used in a sentence, successfully. It's "Uruguayan," and it's given to Missouri's Brent Henderson. Blue Springs is a long way from Montevideo, but Henderson is solid.
10:45: Chand, fond of writing out his words on his placard, cruises by with sobornost. He gives an ineffectual hand slap to another competitor when he sits down.
10:42: One of the favorites, Kavya Shivashankar, takes the mic, after listening to ESPN's Chris McKendry talk about how she's a favorite, how this is her fourth time here, how this is her last attempt. I mean, they are laying it on these kids hard, and everyone can hear it. She doesn't have much trouble with ergasia, leading to the other big favorite, Sid Chand, whose TV expectations are, thankfully, taped.
10:39: Oof. The producers just winced, as they lost the extremely television friendly Shari-Jo Miller, who adds "sir" after her questions and has a swell, lilting way of talking. Spellers have now gone 16 for 18 in the round.
10:38: Kennyi Kwaku Aouad does not one, not two, but three raised-arms flexes for the camera after finding success on thyrocervical.
10:37: Dr. Jacques A. Bailly, in his seventh year as pronouncer, still gets the gets the laughs from the crowd, mixing in Kid Rock into the "use it in a sentence" part and greeting some spellers with "howdy."
10:31: The first of the stars shows up, Kyle Mou. He breezes through inconnu, coolly slouching with confidence. The early drama has been purged from the room, as the long slog toward the finals begins.
10:27: The Bee goes punk, as Serena Skye Laine-Lobsinger takes the mic. She's the one with the straight-up rocker hairstyle, multi-colored and whirled about, with the gray-black-and-purple
purlpe outfit to match. "Is it a-g-r-e-s-t-i-c?" she asks, with a whiff of what's-it-to-you. Anyhow, it was, and we go to commercial, still with only one miss in the round.
10:22: Biggest drama of the round, as the littlest Canadian, Veronica Penny, covers her eyes with her hands for what seems like a half-hour (it isn't). That's apparently her standard technique. She's finally reminded about the clock, and she takes off her hands and nails c-l-a-r-y. The Canadian crowd goes nuts, as they do for each of their spellers. They went 3-3 in this round, and in fact, 10 of the first 11 spellers have found success thus far.
10:16: More awkward silences, as ESPN airs a taped bit done by Erin Andrews, a "behind the scenes" look. The next contestant, Canadian Claudine Broussard, has to wait standing for quite some bit. Canadians have only been allowed in since 2005, fyi.
10:11: ESPN informs viewers that boys have won eight of the last nine bees. Four of the first five contestants today are female.
10:09: The likable Paige Vasseur gives the most enthusiastic celebration thus far, holding hands to face in an "I can't believe it!" pose. Her parents, sitting in the front row, beam.
10:06: Brandon Whitehead, 13, of El Centro, Calif., becomes the first semifinalist dinged. He exits, to applause, on acroamatic (he added an h).
10:04: Esther Park gets us started with parabulia. She nails it, without asking a single question. Don't think the rest of the field didn't notice that.
10:02: We all sit here quietly as the TV folks give the ESPN audience an introduction. It's easy for everyone in the auditorium to hear them talking about Sidarth Chand's mustache. A-w-k-w-a-r-d.
10:00: The AP's Joseph White informs me that three Canadians are still in the field. He also wrote a brilliant piece on the origins of the Indian-American domination of this event.
9:55: An anxious Esther Park, the first contestant, wanders up to the mic. "Not quite yet," she's told. "Huh? Ok," she says, and sits down again
9:50: Bee director Paige Kimble welcomes the crowd, and talks about what an honor it is for these 41 kids to be here. "Perhaps even more than that, appearing on ESPN is cool," she says.