Austin Chronicle Adult Spelling Bee
Shockingly, the possibility of rain once again threatened to derail the Austin Chronicle Adult Spelling Bee at Threadgill's on Thursday, May 14, but the 13th annual event went on as planned. A few droplets appeared during setup, and the sound equipment was quickly covered with tarps, but the clouds were just teasin'. A lively crowd enjoyed libations as they lined up for library cards and learned about the city's digital library.
Erika Allbright of the Austin Public Library officiated, with the Chronicle's Dan Hardick (Ph.D., Luvology) providing comic relief. When he asked the crowd how many others had had a "sargassum," Allbright tersely interjected that he was the only one.
Of the 86 entrants, only 44 qualified for the second test. From these spelling superstars, 20 qualified for the bee. Round one of the bee went fairly quickly, with Allbright lobbing softballs like "cirrhosis" up to brain-busters like "hepatomegaly" (two liver diseases; who wants a drink?). Round two began with only eight spellers, including recent winners Geoff Thevenot and two-time runner-up David Millard. Casey Butterfield was the last woman standing, and she went out on "perigynous." Winner for most useful in daily conversation was "pilonidal" (of, relating to, or being a hair-containing cyst near the upper crease of the buttocks). Millard rushed himself a bit on "ecdysiast" (a striptease dancer) and was knocked out, leaving two past winners to duke it out. However, it ended in a heartbeat, as it was only four words into the showdown when Thevenot misspelled "circumscissile."
Self-proclaimed "word nerd" Mike Petrina, of Arlington, Va., pulled out his third consecutive win with "vernier," the 61st word in the bee. He advises prospective participants to study the dictionary, and "practice, practice, practice" – and do it because of a love for it. Study of Latin definitely helps. Although not a crossword fanatic, Petrina enjoys bridge and spending time with his dog, Tyler. Ever gracious, he wanted to thank everyone involved, and spoke kindly with those whom he had annihilated. Saying he loves the Chronicle bee because everyone is so friendly, Petrina expressed a hope to return next year. Perhaps it will finally be Millard's turn for the trophy? We know one thing for sure: It will, as always, almost be postponed due to rain.