1:06: Round 5 ends with Eleanor Runde from Seattle, who fails to spell "epicrisis," in what was clearly a desperate stab. We had 20 dings, and 16 correct answers. Everyone looks around anxiously, to see if things will be called here or if another round is needed before tonight's Finals.
"We are in a two-minute commercial break," comes the word.
On to Round 6.
1:01: And we're back to Virginians, with a sporting element. Andrew Traylor of Charlottesville gets "sSantería," the Caribbean religion that's been embraced by many Major Leaguers (and one former D.C. United defender). It trips him up. But
Reston's Centreville's Tim Ruiter makes it through on clogwyn. That's 16 spellers correct, with just one to go.
12:57: Dr. Bailly has officially crossed over. He's angling for Ryan Seacrest's job. "Kalium," is the word. The definition? "Kalium, I hardly know him," Bailly says. (/MichaelScotted)
"Sorry," Bailly continued. "More seriously, 'Kalium has the atomic number 19' It's one of the elements."
Akshay Raghuram misses it. Five out of six misses here, as the Round of Death regains its teeth.
12:55: Handed "thylacine," a dog-like, carnivorous marsupial, Keiko Bridwell chooses an "o" instead of an "a" and is ousted. Her sister, by the way, was dressed like a bee yesterday. That's too bad.
12:49: Nicholas Rushlow, the 11-year old with the oddly named puppy, is gone, meaning I've now interviewed zero of the remaining contestants. He was ousted on "hebdomadally," which means weekly. Sentence: "Stacey told Adam his dating prospects would improve greatly if he started bathing more than just hebdomadally."
Many of the eliminated semi-finalists have remained in the stands, but even they are getting antsy. We've all been in here for at least three hours. During the latest commercial break, seven spellers gather at center stage, led by Kennyi. Six are through, and one has yet to spell in Round 5.
12:42: Oh, that Dr. Bailly. He's slaying this room tonight. Send him straight to the Improv after the Finals. The word: "Deloul." The definition: "A swift Arabian riding camel." The sentence: "While most people could ignore the sheikh's sudden weight gain, his deloul did not have that luxury." Tino Delamerced has given up on the word, and goes with d-e-l-o-u-l as a miserable hail Mary, but he's correct. Twelve are through, 13 are out, nine still have to spell.
Also, uber-confident Kyle Mou, favorite Sid Chand and Hawaiian shirt-wearing Hawaiian Talmage Nakamoto are keeping up a steady patter on the non-active side of the stage. They couldn't appear more relaxed.
12:37: Zach Zagorski, here for another go-round, offers up one "s" too many on "strepitoso." The hope of Long Island Jewish World and Boy Scouts everywhere is marched off-stage.
12:35: "I'd like to start again," says Neetu Chandak, when spelling some sort of pasta I've never heard of. ("Perciatelli.") "What was the word?" she asks. Ah yes, the famous Spelling Bee mind blank, where you start off with a tubular pasta and accidentally start spelling the name of a 1937-vintage car part. She got it right, anyhow, and squealed. It's looking like Round 6 will be necessary.
12:33: Someone has placed a pacifier on the wall directly behind the judges. This confuses me.
12:29: Looks like three of the remaining 14 boys are sporting mustaches. Not sure how this compares to past years. One of them, the too-cool-for-skool football- baseball- and basketball-playing Avvinash Radakrishnan, dances his way through acmonital, and gives an emphatic fist pump. A recent run of success means we might yet have one more round before the finals. Remember, we're shooting for about a dozen; with 15 spellers yet to take the mic, we already have 10 who are through.
12:25: The trains have definitely started running on time again. First Kavya Shivashankar cruises through "kurta," a word she clearly knows from the jump, and then Sid Chand smacks around "machtpolitik" and slaps hands on his way back to his seat. Someone has got to introduce the fist bump to these kids. Or the chest bump, even.
12:22: And Kennyi may have just put himself at the top of the "most TV-friendly" list, with a vintage performance at the mic, from excessive use of "Dr. Bailly" to address the pronouncer to a sort of fall-away celebration before he had even finished spelling "voussoir." The audience whooped as they haven't since the Canadian trio went down.
Sid Chand, who's two spellers away, holds his hands over his eyes for several large moments while TV breaks away.
12:16: And it becomes clear that these sentences will be the lasting memory of the '09 Bee. Like, sheol, a subterranean world of darkness, is sentenced thus: "Aaron awoke from a dream thinking he was in sheol, but realized it was still seventh-period biology." While you watch the axe fall on tweeny dreams, it helps to have a dash of humor, no?
During this TV break, Sid Chand and Kennyi Aouad chat on stage, comparing how they're wearing their placards, and then shake hands. Sid and Kavya also shake hands; they've been hyped yet again going into the break. Others walk off the stage and grab cups of water.
The mayhem has relented somewhat; spellers are now 5 for 15 in this round, with 21 still to go.
12:11: And it's two in a row, with Talmadge Nakamoto deftly working through passerelle. It's some sort of pedestrian bridge, and the sentence involves Las Vegas visitors losing their money at the maximum number of casinos.
"The sentences are quite hilarious this year," points out host Chris McKendry.
12:10: Punk rocker Serena Skye Laine-Lobsinger is given "hircocervus." "Nice," she says. I wanted to hear "a legendary creature that is half-goat, half-stag" used in a sentence, but SSLL doesn't go there, and spells the word correctly, then throws hand over mouth and jogs back to her chair.
12:05: One gasp after another as the field is winnowed. Slayed. Clear-cut. Choose your ironically chosen verb of disaster. Nine of the first 10 spellers of this round have missed their words, though depending on what happens they could theoretically get another chance. Several of the words have been short but deadly, like "sievert" and "macle," both of which were missed.
The empty chairs on one side of the stage clearly taunt the anxious spellers on the other, who are still waiting for their turn at the scythe. And there's a brief pause coming out of commercial, as absent Eleonor Runde sprints back to her seat with a laugh.
11:54: Back-to-back Canadians go down, both to raucous syrup-filled applause. Of seven spellers thus far, six have been dinged. Better ease off on the difficulty, folks.
Also, the incessant chatter from the ESPN hosts in the back of the room about the upcoming ESPN NBA playoff telecasts are a bit odd. Does LeBron James have to wait at center-court while Jeff Van Gundy sings the praises of Sid Chand? He does not.
11:52: And the sentences, at least, remain brilliant.
"In honor of her 20 years at Taco Bell, Rosalind was presented with a skeuomorph," for example.
"The thought of someone kvetching about her kichel gave Meryl the spilkes," for another.
11:48: As expected, the massive success in Round 4 led directly into a Round 5 bloodbath. The first four spellers all mis-fired, including Josephine Kao, considered one of the heavyweights. As she exited, the other favorites gave her the proper send-off, with some--including the power duo of Chand and Shivashankar--standing and applauding.
The words in question: barbotte, skeuomorph, gastaldo, and dansant.