Good Luck Roy, Zaila, & Chaitra!!!!!


Good luck to my students Roy Seligman (#1), Zaila Avant-garde (#133), and Chaitra Thummala (#190) as they compete in the Championship Finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Orlando, Florida tonight! Tune in to ESPN2 to watch.

These spellers have been working toward this night for so many years. All the late nights, early mornings, blood, sweat, and tears have all lead up to this very moment.

Don’t miss it!!! TUNE INTO ESPN2 RIGHT NOW!!!!

Congrats Zaila!

CONGRATS to my students Zaila Avant-Garde of Harvey, Louisiana and another [anonymous] student for their fantastic performances in the Mission Spelling Bee tonight!

  • Zaila placed 1st overall
  • The other student placed 3rd overall

With less than 7 months remaining before Scripps, time to keep on constantly improving!

Congrats Zaila!!!

Congrats to everyone who participated today in the Finals of the national Hexco-Kaplan Bee, and to all my students who participated in the competition. Special congratulations to my student Zaila Avant-garde of Harvey, Louisiana for being crowned the champion.

With this win, Zaila wins $10,000, free access to Kaplan’s pre-college programs (such as ACT, SAT, or PSAT prep), and an enormous 26-inch trophy, provided by the fantastic bee organizers over at Hexco and Kaplan. I am elated for Zaila — this success is a testament to her incredible hard work and perseverance over the last several months that I have been working with her.

This competition contained

  • 88 of some of the nations best spellers, including 10 who were students or alumni of my coaching program
  • A Grand Finals stage containing the Top 21 spellers in the Bee, of which 6 were students/alumni of the program. 4 of my students placed in the Top 5 or better.

I’d like to congratulate

  • Michael Kolagani and Vayun Krishna, who placed 13th
  • Dean Alkhairy and Nitya Kathiravan, who placed 5th
  • One more current student who will remain anonymous for now, who placed somewhere within the Top 3
  • And Zaila Avant-garde, who won 1st place

These spellers have set a very elite standard, and credit goes to them for their outstanding hard work and diligence.

Now, the focus shifts to the next competition. It’s time to correct any issues, stave off complacency, and start improving for the next one!

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 5.12.19 PM.png

Zaila spelling Maryknoller (a priest of a Catholic congregation of New York) correctly in Round 21.

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Zaila being declared the champion after spelling Qashqai (referring to a Turkic-speaking people) correctly in Round 30.

Congrats to Students of the Coaching Program!

Congrats to the students and alumni of my coaching program who participated in the National Hexco-Kaplan Bee, especially those reaching the Grand Finals! Of my ten participating students/alumni, eight qualified for the Semifinals (Top 48). Congrats to Akshita Balaji for her 35th place finish, and Jayden Lee for coming in 27th. We’ll continue working hard to elevate to even higher levels. Six of my ten students/alumni — including Nitya Kathiravan, Michael Kolagani, Vayun Krishna, Zaila Avant-garde, Dean Alkhairy, and one more — have qualified for the Grand Finals! To watch, go to at 10am CST tomorrow. Best of luck to everyone competing, and thank you to Hexco and Kaplan for organizing this event!

Congrats to Zaila & Dean!

CONGRATULATIONS to my students Zaila Avant-Garde of Harvey, Louisiana and Dean Alkhairy of Tustin, California for their stellar performances in the 2020 Mission Spelling Bee today!

  • Zaila placed 1st out of 2020 Scripps-eligible spellers, and 2nd overall
  • Dean placed 2nd out of 2020 Scripps-eligible spellers, and 3rd overall

Also, congrats to Shourav Dasari — the overall champion.

Now it’s back to training and improving for the next Bee!

Zaila Avant-garde 2019

Zaila spells in the 2019 Scripps Bee. (@Basketballasart / Twitter)


Dean spells in the 2019 Scripps Bee. (Mark Bowen / Scripps National Spelling Bee)

Good Luck to my Students in the Mission Spelling Bee!

Good luck to my students Zaila Avant-garde and Dean Alkhairy who’ve qualified for the Top 7 in the Championship Finals of tonight’s national Mission Spelling Bee! The Finals begin tonight at 6pm CST and will be streamed live on YouTube.

Dean Alkhairy 2019

Dean Alkhairy competes in the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. (Mark Bowen / Scripps National Spelling Bee)

Zaila Avant-garde 2019

Zaila Avant-garde competes in the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. (@Basketballasart / Twitter)

Good Luck to Students of my Program in the Grand Finals of the 2020 Spell Pundit Online National Spelling Bee!

Since the 2020 Scripps National Spelling Bee’s cancellation, the Spell Pundit Online National Spelling Bee has stepped up to serve as the de facto replacement. Beginning on Saturday, May 23, the Spell Pundit Online National Spelling Bee started with over 250 participants, including many past Scripps Finalists and the most elite spellers in the world.

After the Semifinals yesterday, that field of over 250 was whittled down to the Top 16 in the world, who will participate in the Grand Finals tonight at 6pm CST. Four of those 16 have been trained in my program (seven of my students from my program sign up to participate, so over half of them remain in the competition!) That includes eighth grader Dean Alkhairy, seventh grader Akshita Balaji, seventh grader Aritra Banerjee, and sixth grader Vayun Krishna.

Here’s the link to watch.

Good luck to them tonight!!!

Live Blogging the 2019 Scripps Finals!

I’m here at the ballroom in the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, MD to watch the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee. I’ve spontaneously decided to live blog this Bee! So, without further ado, here’s my take on the 92nd Scripps National Spelling Bee:

8:36 PM – We’re starting with 16 spellers. The first two, Rishik Gandhasri and Simone Kaplan, breeze through frailejón and Stakhanovite respectively. Both words are on the Advanced section of the Master List. Rishik placed 25th in 2018, and his brother Rutvik placed 6th in 2016. This is Simone’s third appearance, and she is coming off a 10th place finish in 2018.

8:38 PM – Up next is Aisha Randhawa of Riverside, CA. She advances, spelling jabiru without problems. Same with Erin Howard of Huntsville, AL, who spells Tophet. Both are Bee veteran all-stars; Erin placed 9th and Aisha placed 7th in 2018. Typically, no more than two or three miss in the first round of the Finals, and this year seems on track to be typical. Both jabiru and Tophet are also on the Advanced section of the Master List, as well as Scott Remer’s Words of Wisdom (which only missed frailejón so far).

8:44 PMNicholas D’Sa, a first-time participant and eighth grader from Santa Ana, CA is up. He gets alloeostropha… and spells it right! He may have recognized that word from Hexco’s Blitz Lists, Words of Wisdom, or Sriram Hathwar’s Words from The Champs. The Advanced section of the Master List also moves to 5/5 on the words so far. Saketh Sundar of Bethesda, MD spells scuppaug correctly – that one’s on the Consolidated Word List Infrequent section and the Master List Intermediate section.

8:47 PMAlice Liu of St. Louis, MO, 12th place finisher in 2017 and 34th in 2018, spells kairos correctly and makes the spellers 7-0 against the words. That word’s in Words of Wisdom and ML Advanced. Yolanda Ni of Jackson, MS, a second-timer who missed the Finals cutoff last year, tying with hundreds for 42nd place, spells psithyrus (also on ML Advanced) correctly to make it 8-0. Scripps is going to have to step it up!

8:53 PMNavneeth Murali of Edison, NJ, 5th place finisher in 2018 and a top-4 favorite this year, gets the Icelandic word marmennill (on ML Advanced). He’s clearly seen it before and gets it right. Colette Giezentanner, a sixth grader and bee newcomer, handles holishkes (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, CWL Infrequent) easily as well. 10-0.

8:57 PM – Next is Shruthika Padhy, another top-4 favorite and 2018 10th place finisher. She gets emberizine (ML Esoteric, Words From the Champs), miles harder than any other word this round… and gets it! Very impressive – she’ll be a tough out tonight. Sohum Sukhatankar, top-4 favorite, spells quarrion (ML Advanced and 2008 Round 4) correctly to lead into the commercial break. 12-0!

9:02 PM – Scripps is probably getting thirsty for blood. Abhijay Kodali of Dallas, TX, the last top-4 favorite of the round and 2018 third place finisher, spells alferez (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, Blitz Lists) with his eyes closed (figuratively, not literally). Christopher Serrao, three-time participant and 34th place finisher last year, follows up with apophysitis (ML Stems Words, Spell Pundit New Words module).

9:06 PMRohan Raja spells kagura (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom) correctly, just as Dhivya Senthil Murugan of Denver, CO did eight years ago in Round 7 of the 2011 Scripps Bee. Hephzibah Sujoe rounds out Round 9 by spelling campylobacter (ML Advanced, Blitz Lists) correctly. The spellers are 16-0 against Dr. Bailly so far. Wow.

Commercial break reflection: Scripps will need to start going crazy soon if they want one champion in time for the end. They’ll need more emberizine-difficulty words. Let’s see what they decide to do in Round 10! Buckle up!

9:11 PM – Rishik Gandhasri gets his toughest one of the Bee, myctophid (ML Stems Words only)… luckily, it’s spelled exactly as Greek rules and roots (myktos = nose, ophis = snake, -id = one belonging to) and he gets it right, albeit showing uncertainty for the first time so far. Simone Kaplan follows with autotopagnosia (ML Stems Words, Spell Pundit New Words module). Same story here – an uncommon bee word, but entirely made up of Greek roots (auto- = self, top- = place, a- = not, gnos- = knowledge, -ia = condition). Simone handles it like a pro and spells correctly.

9:17 PM – First casualty: Aisha Randhawa, an eighth grader and whopping four-time finalist, misses the French cuirassier (ML Advanced, GeoSpell French, Words of Wisdom), using the English ending -eer instead of the French -ier meaning “one that does (masculine).” Standing ovation from the audience. What a career!

9:20 PM – Nicholas D’Sa follows with a correct spelling of oeconomus (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, Blitz Lists), a Latinized Greek work coming from the Greek ec-/eco-/oec-/oeco-/oiko-/oikos meaning “house,” the Greek nomos meaning “law,” and masculine Latin noun suffix -us. Saketh Sundar breezes through paxiuba (ML Advanced, Words From the Champs), a common bee word spelled exactly according to Portuguese rules. Alice Liu follows with the similarly common word psoas (ML Advanced, Blitz Lists, Hexco’s The Spelling Rules Book).

9:22 PM – Bee history here! Yolanda Ni gets Maillard (ML Esoteric only)… which is actually not an entry in the dictionary. Maillard reaction is, however. Scripps has never asked a phrase, part of a phrase, or words meaning a type of genus (and only one dialectal word) in a post-Prelims round, but I had a feeling Scripps would expand their word criteria given how good spellers are getting. Exciting stuff! Anyways, Yolanda spells correctly.

9:27 PM – Navneeth Murali is up next. He gets a straightforward Latin root word haustellum (ML Stems Words, Words from The Champs), coming from haust-/haurire, “to draw” and -ellum, a neuter diminutive suffix. Easy stuff for him. Onto the dramatic crowd-favorite Colette Giezentanner. She gets concentus (ML Intermediate, CWL Moderate), which is her first word of the Bee not from Words of Wisdom… and spells correctly! Spellers are now 9-1 in the round and 25-1 overall.

9:32 PM – Shruthika Padhy steps up to the mic. Dr. Bailly gives her Borinqueño (ML Advanced, Words from The Champs). A tough sounding word, relatively uncommon word which is spelled exactly according to Spanish rules and contains -eño (one who does, masculine). She gets it without a sweat. Sohum Sukhatankar spells golconda (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, Blitz Lists) correctly, as does Abhijay Kodali with terrones (ML HPP Section, HPP stands for Hyphenated words, Plurals, and Phrases), plural of terron (ML Intermediate, CWL Moderate, Words of Wisdom).

9:36 PM – Still 15 spellers left. Christopher Serrao spells atabaque (ML Advanced, Spell Pundit New Words) correctly. Rohan Raja follows with a correct spelling of bozzetto (ML Intermediate, CWL Moderate, Words of Wisdom, Words from The Champs), a 2010 Round 3 word and a 2005 Regional Additional Word (fun fact: I made a list of the 1,040 most common Regional Additional Words in Bee history in preparation for the Regional Bee, bozzetto tied for 909th.).

9:39 PM – The second misspelling of the night. 7th grader Hephzibah Sujoe, the sister of 2014 Champ Ansun Sujoe, misses flaser (ML Advanced). She goes with z instead of s. It’s s because in German, /z/ is nearly always s; z makes the /ts/ sound (like in zugzwang). Hephzibah will be back.

Commercial break after the conclusion of Round 9. We’re down to 14 here. Spellers went 14-2 in Round 9.

9:43 PM – Rishik Gandhasri spells bottarga (ML Advanced, Spell Pundit New Words) correctly. Simone Kaplan speeds through athyreosis (ML Stems Words, New Nat’s Notes, 2005 Round 8). Erin Howard gets pallone (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom) easily.

9:46 PM – Nicholas D’Sa makes lobbygow (ML Advanced) look a lot easier than it is. The only other place that word has appeared is in the 2016 AARP Senior Spelling Bee. Saketh Sundar does the same with doronicum (ML Advanced, Blitz Lists).

9:48 PM – Alice Liu spells chaebol (ML Advanced, Spell Pundit New Words) correctly. Yolandi Ni gets hieracium (ML Advanced, Blitz Lists) and seems uncertain… misses it. She uses a t instead of c. The reason it’s c not t is that

  1. -at- in Latin would indicate the presence of the Latin -at/-atus, a past participial suffix, and
  2. The word comes from the Greek hierax (hawk), and -x changes to -c- when a suffix is added in Latinized Greek (in authentic Greek it changes to -k-).

Complicated stuff. Yolanda, an eighth grader, is the third speller to miss and the third speller to receive a standing ovation. She had never made the Top 50 before this year. Awesome job!

9:52 PMNavneeth Murali follows up with omphacite (ML Esoteric, Words from The Champs), seeming a little uncertain for the first time today. Colette Giezentanner follows with fucus (ML Intermediate, The Spelling Rules Book), visibly shocked she spelled correctly. -us is a masculine noun suffix in Latin and is far more common than -is (alternative options like -ice (English) or -os (Greek) are from languages other than Latin and therefore wouldn’t make sense). Key takeaway here: the judges wanted her to overthink it, but she didn’t and got it right. Along with not asking enough questions (“arogatiasis”), overthinking (“hypernoia”) is the leading cause of misspelling at Scripps! Sohum Sukhantankar follows with a correct spelling of cullis (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, Blitz Lists).

9:57 PMAbhijay Kodali is given fonctionnaire (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, Blitz Lists)… this word can be spelled pretty easily with two pieces of info: first, it comes from the French -aire (one connected with), second, French root words ending in -n double the n when adding a suffix. Abhijay nails it! Christopher Serrao coolly spells bassanello (ML Advanced, GeoSpell Italian, Patel Spelling Prep Volume 1Words of Wisdom, Blitz Lists) right, which contains the Italian masculine diminutive -ello. Onto the last speller of the round, Rohan Raja. He gets sobole (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom), his 7th word from Words of Wisdom in the last 7 rounds. He hasn’t looked even a little bit concerned by any word thus far.

Commercial break. Round 11 is over and we’re down to 13 spellers. Spellers went 13-1, with Yolanda Ni being the only one to miss. Onto Round 12!

10:04 PM – Rishik Gandhasri is back at the mic, and gets coryphée (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, Hexco’s Musical Terms booklet, GeoSpell French, Words from The Champs, Patel Spelling Prep Volume 7), from the French feminine past participial suffix -ée and the Greek koryphe meaning “top.” I’d be shocked if he missed this… he doesn’t. Simone Kaplan again speeds through her word perfectly; this time it’s leister (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, Paideia 1998 & 2006, The Spelling Rules Book).

10:07 PM – Erin Howard spells meerschaum (ML Advanced, 1996 Round 5, 2016 South Asian Spelling Bee, CWL Frequent, Words Of Champions, Words of Wisdom, The Spelling Rules Book, Rebecca’s Spelling Notebook, and more) without flinching. Nicholas D’Sa misses jalap (ML Advanced, Rebecca’s Spelling Notebook, Blitz Lists), a French & Spanish word with a very confusingly anglicized pronunciation – definitely one of the hardest words in the Bee up until this point. Saketh Sundar spells psammosere (ML Advanced, Blitz Lists, GeoSpell ISV, Words from The Champs) correctly. 12 spellers remain.

10:11 PM – Alice Liu spells murrelet (ML Advanced, CWL Infrequent, 1991 Round 5) unwaveringly. Navneeth Murali is up next. He gets Beira (ML Esoteric only), which has a near-homonym (barra) that Scripps failed to mention (third time they’ve done that so far in the Finals, after not mentioning that of mignonette (minionette) or bullace (bolus) earlier in the morning Finals. He looks uncertain… but gets it right! The hard part of this one was the ei. Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony, and /ā/ is ei before r in Portuguese.

10:14 PM – Colette Giezentanner bows out, missing a very tough word, chama (ML Advanced, Blitz Lists). The crowd roars as they give her a well-deserved standing ovation. Only a sixth grader, she’ll be a big name in the spelling world for the next couple years. Shruthika Padhy spells thymele (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom, Words From the Champs, 2008 Round 11) correctly. Sohum Sukhatankar, totally unflinching up until this point, gets trachyte (ML Advanced, Words of Wisdom) right.

10:19 PM – Abhijay Kodali is up next. After his endearing profile video in which he narrates the thoughts of his dog Zeus, he steps up and spells Heideggerian (ML Intermediate, New Nat’s Notes, The Spelling Rules Book, Words From the Champs) without issue. Christopher Serrao does the same with Macclesfield (ML Advanced, 2004 Regional Additional Words, New Nat’s Notes, Words of Wisdom, Words From the Champs).

10:21 PM – Rohan Raja has no problem with calathos (ML Intermediate, New Nat’s Notes, Words From the Champs, Rebecca’s Spelling Notebook). And that’s the end of Round 12! 11 spellers remain.

Commercial break. Phew!

10:25 PM – Rishik Gadhasri gets chelydroid (ML Esoteric), a pretty straightforward one if he knows about the Greek chelys meaning “tortoise”… and he gets it right. Simone Kaplan gets Huanglongbing (ML Advanced) – something I like to call a TV word. TV words are really long words that sound hard to an audience not familiar with spelling, but which pretty much every speller knows about and can spell correctly. The audience gasps as Dr. Bailly pronounces the word, and, in an act of TV word-tradition, Simone gets it right, showing off knowledge of the definition and origin before spelling. TV ratings surely on the rise! They show up every year, but the only missed TV word I’ve ever seen was Bewusstseinslage last year, missed by the runner-up Naysa Modi. But I digress.

10:29 PM – Erin Howard gets jindyworobak (ML Advanced) correct. Saketh Sundar gets passepied (ML Advanced) correct. Alice Liu has no problem with surculose (ML Esoteric).

10:32 PM – Navneeth Murali gets ischiocerite and again seems uncertain, but he’s pulled through all the other times… actually, this time he doesn’t, using a y after the ch instead of i. I’m surprised he missed this one, considering how great of a speller he is and the fact that ischi-/ischio-/ischion is a Greek root meaning “hip.” He’s only in seventh grade though and will absolutely be one of the favorites next year.

10:34 PM – Shruthika Padhy spells bresaola (ML Advanced) correctly. Sohum Sukhatankar spells chocalho (ML Advanced) correctly, still without a hint of a second thought. Abhijay Kodali and the word Catilinarian (ML Advanced) produce a similar story. Both of those two words are pretty well-known, so that’s not surprising.

10:37 PM – Christopher Serrao and Rohan Raja are the last two who need to spell in Round 13. Christopher gets grasseyement (ML Advanced, 2016 South Asian Spelling Bee) and spells correctly. Rohan gets vintem (ML Advanced) correct. Two more common bee words that probably all 16 finalists could’ve spelled right.

No commercial break, we’re moving right along to Round 14! 10 spellers remain. Now that there’s only 10 left, I’m going to start referring to them by first names. Here we go!

10:40 PM – Rishik breezes through Nyaya (ML Esoteric). At this point, if there’s any question about who the most confident speller is, there shouldn’t be. Simone Kaplan gets manualiter (ML Advanced) and explains the definition to Dr. Bailly before Dr. Bailly gets the chance to say it to her. She spells very quickly and gets it right. Simone is extremely impressive to say the least, but may be playing a dangerous game here if history is any indicator (fast and very confident spellers in the Finals have all messed up, whereas all recent past champions take their time). Erin has also been confident, albeit in a quieter way, and spells zamacueca (ML Advanced) easily. Saketh gets geeldikkop (ML Advanced), a relatively well-known bee word containing the Afrikaans kop meaning “head.”

10:43 PM – Alice misses Rassenkreis (ML Advanced), using only one s. It has to be two s‘s here because in German (which by the way is a very structured language with very few exceptions) spells /s/ with ss; s makes the /z/ sound. Alice is only a seventh grader, so she’ll also be back and better for next year. Sohum spells allothimorph (ML Advanced) right.

10:47PM – Abhijay has just gotten one of the most “TV” of all TV Words: auftaktigkeit (ML Advanced). The audience gasps and Abhijay goes on to spell it right to the eruption of cheers from the audience. Mission accomplished, Scripps. Christopher, also very quietly confident, spells imbirussú (ML Esoteric) without issue. Rohan follows with Nibelung (ML Advanced), spelling it unflinchingly and correctly.

Still no commercial break! Onto Round 15 with 9 spellers left. Rishik is up next.

10:52PM – Rishik spells fravashi (ML Intermediate), a common word he’s surely seen a million times, correctly.

10:53PM – Simone finally bows out on tettigoniid (ML Esoteric). We’re down to 8 spellers…

10:54PM – Saketh gets Cytherean (ML Advanced), a moderately common bee word. He seems to be debating -ian vs. -ean. Here’s why, logically, it needs to be -ean, even if he’s forgotten the word:

If you have to guess on -ian vs. -ean for -/ēən/, use -ian. However, use -ean when:

  1. There’s a stress right before -/ēən/ in at least one pronunciation (hylean, Eritrean, Animikean).
  2. The word’s from a Greek (or Mediterranean) name (procrustean, Ulyssean, Praxean). Note that this doesn’t usually apply if the word passes into Latin (Dionysian, Aesculapian, Phrygian, typhonian, Aesopian, stygian, Archilochian, Cimmerian).
  1. The word has a root word with e near the end: Andean (Andes), Boisean (Boise), chondrostean (osteon). EXCEPTION:
    antelopian (antelope)

Note this only applies when the word ends in -/ēən/, so Epictetian ends -ian.

Cytherean (aha!)

(That’s a tip I sent to a young student of mine earlier this year).

Conditions 1 and 3 apply to Cytherean; it has a stress right before -/ēən/ and its root word is Cytherea, a Greek-to-Latin epithet of Venus-Aphrodite.

Well, Saketh sure did build suspense before he did it, but he went with -ean and spelled correctly! He’s moving on to Round 16.

10:57PM – Shruthika is up next with taurokathapsia (ML Advanced). Pretty common bee word; easy stuff for a speller of her quality.

10:59PM – Sohum, perhaps the remaining speller who has seemed the most confident up until this point, gets saucisson (ML Advanced)… and spells correctly.

11:00PM – Abhijay, who is probably second only to Sohum in that category, gets passacaglia (ML Advanced)… and gets it right. The last 4 words have all been pretty common.

11:01PM – Christopher has zero issues with caramoussal (ML Advanced). Hardly anyone left on stage has seemed unconfident at all up until this point, save maybe Saketh and Shruthika on a couple words.

11:03PM – Rohan gets choumoellier (ML Advanced) correct. Another common one.

Side-rant: the judges need to figure out this root situation. Many-a-time in this bee, including just then when Rohan asked for the French root chou meaning cabbage, Dr. Sietsema says he “can’t find the root” when it actually is in the word, just not listed in that exact entry. In the morning Finals, something similar happened to Vayun Krishna when he asked for the Greek -id meaning “one belonging to” on the word ixodid; Even though it was in the word just not explicitly stated in the etymology, Dr. Sietsema said no and Vayun ended up using -yd. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. This is the National Spelling Bee, y’all need to figure it out! Prepare the list of roots for the words beforehand! I hope one of y’all on the spelling bee team read this – everything else has been great by the way :).

Anyways, end of rant, and end of Round 15. Spellers went 8-2 in Round 15; Simone and Alice dropped out.

11:08 PM – Rishik gets tjaele (ML Advanced), a common word that’s very hard-looking and will have the TV audience at the edge of their seat. No surprise, he spells it right.

11:09 PM – Erin follows with Komondor (ML Advanced) – slightly harder than tjaele, still not bad. She spells correctly.

11:10 PM – Saketh is up next. Dr. Bailly gives him vraic (ML Advanced). This is of similar difficulty to the last few words, and Saketh gets it right.

11:12 PM – Shruthika nearly rips everyone’s heart out in the process, but pulls out a correct spelling of sphaeriid (ML Esoteric).

11:14 PM – Sohum gets tathagata (ML Esoteric), a very simple word after applying two Sanskrit rules: /ə/ = a, and the fact that if /t/, /b/, or /d/ is randomly stressed it’ll be spelled th, bh, or dh, respectively. He gets it correct.

11:15 PM – Abhijay for once maybe shows the slightest hint of uncertainty but spells chrotta (ML Advanced) correctly.

11:16 PM – Christopher matches Sohum’s energy, spelling callejón (ML Advanced) correctly. That word comes from the Spanish diminutive -ejo/-eja and the Spanish augmentative -ón (which also appeared in frailejón and terrones). A diminutive makes a word “smaller” and an augmentative makes a word “bigger.” In Spanish, calle means street, so callejón means “little big street.” It’s part of a rare group of words with both a diminutive and augmentative, which I call “diminaugs.” The Italian cannelloni is another diminaug.

11:17 PM – Rohan spells Gaeltacht (ML Advanced) correctly, but not before hilariously exaggerating the guttural part of the pronunciation, saying “oh god, I sound like I just threw up,” and getting another non-answer from Dr. Sietsema on a root that actually exists within the word.

On to Round 17! Round 16 was pretty easy and all 8 spellers remain.

11:18 PM – Rishik asks Dr. Bailly what time it is, then spells rhathymia (ML Advanced) correctly. Comes from Greek roots thymos meaning “spirit” and -ia meaning “condition.”

11:20 PM – Erin gets tulisan (ML Intermediate) right, no problem.

11:21 PM – Dr. Bailly gives Saketh roskopf (ML Advanced), continuing the streak of relatively common bee words… Saketh spells right, albeit he *seemed* pretty unconfident. These kids are too good for these kind of words! By the way, kopf is a German root meaning “head.”

11:23 PM – Shruthika is up next and gets Moazagotl (ML HPP Section), another word taken out of a phrase, like Maillard. That’s a very hard word. Overall, Shruthika has definitely gotten the toughest words up until this point. She spells it right though!

11:24 PM – Sohum wastes no time with spelling urfirnis (ML Advanced) right. Pretty common one.

11:25 PM – Abhijay spells aphesis (ML Intermediate) confidently.

11:26 PM – Christopher spells jacqueminot (ML Advanced) confidently.

11:27 PM – Rohan spells Honiton (ML Advanced) confidently. These four boys – Sohum, Abhijay, Christopher, and Rohan – who finish out the rounds are machines.

End of Round 17. Dr. Bailly just said we’re in “uncharted territory” and that the spellers are the best “superspellers” in bee history…

BOMBSHELL. Dr. Bailly says there are three more rounds, and that EVERYONE who is still in after three rounds are co-champions! WOW!!! UNBELIEVABLE.

This is a last resort for Scripps. They absolutely do not want even co-champions, as demonstrated by their major steps (increasing Championship word amount, implementing Tiebreaker Test, etc.) to avoid that, as well as the spelling bee staff’s visible unhappiness when co-champs were crowned for the third time in 2016. So this is totally absurd.

The implications this development has on the spelling bee as a competition are huge, in my opinion. I have a lot of thoughts and theories for what lies in store for the bee in the future, but that’s all for a different post. For now, let’s keep blogging!

11:35 PM – Rishik spells murrain (ML Advanced, 1994 Round 8, 1991 & 2004 Regional Additional Words) correctly. Why on earth are they still asking words from the CWL?

11:36 PM – Erin spells calembour (ML Advanced) correctly, clearly knowing it right off the bat.

11:37 PM – Saketh spells makimono (ML Advanced) correctly, a word also asked in Round 6 of the 2007 Bee.

11:38 PM – Shruthika spells therblig (ML Intermediate) correctly, no problem. The “Championship words” so far have been anticlimactically easy.

11:38 PM – Sohum spells paralipomena (ML Advanced) correctly, another CWL word and word used before – it was also used in Round 5 of the 1991 Bee.

11:40 PM – Abhijay spells cestui (ML Advanced) correctly. The words seem to have gotten easier from the beginning of the Finals, at least in terms of the words’ commonness.

11:41 PM – Christopher spells Logudorese (ML Esoteric) correctly. I spoke too soon – this one is very uncommon. Not a problem for Christopher though!

11:42 PM – Rohan spells hochmoor (ML Advanced) correctly.

No one has missed a word since Round 15, and we’re now moving on to Round 19. Jeez. Just two more rounds for these eight.

11:44 PM – Rishik spells one of the easiest words in the Finals, anthocyanin (ML Stems Words), correctly. It’s made up of three common roots: antho- = flower (Gk), cyan- = blue (Gk), and -in = chemical substance (Latin).

11:45 PM – Erin follows with a correct spelling of deixis (ML Advanced).

11:45 PM – Saketh spells mondegreen correctly (ML Advanced).

11:47 PM – Shruthika spells limitrophe correctly (ML Advanced).

11:48 PM – Sohum spells seitan correctly (ML Advanced).

11:49 PM – Abhijay spells badderlocks (ML Intermediate) correctly.

11:50 PM – Christopher spells omphalopsychite (ML Stems Words) correctly. Straightforward Greek stems word: omphalo- = navel, psych- = soul, -ite = mineral.

11:52 PM – Rohan spells chapon (ML Intermediate) correctly. In French, /sh/ = ch, /a/ = a, and /ōⁿ/ = on.

We finished Round 19. Round 20 is next…….

That means EVERYONE who spells correctly in this round will have WON the Scripps National Spelling Bee!!! MADNESS.

This is going to be hugeeee national news, probably. Just a side-thought.

11:54 PM – Rishik spells auslaut (ML Intermediate) correctly, and is the first of probably many champions of the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee!

11:55 PM – Erin immediately recognizes erysipelas (ML Advanced), and spells correctly. Wow. I’m really starting to wonder if any of the eight will miss – it sure doesn’t look like it!

11:56 PM – Saketh gets bougainvillea (ML Advanced), another CWL word… and spells correctly! Three champions so far, surely more to come…

Okay so how are these talk shows going to work? Are they going to bring eight people on Jimmy Kimmel Live? That’s probably going to be very entertaining.

12:00 AM – Shruthika spells aiguillette correctly (ML Advanced). That’s four now. I really, really, really hope all eight spell correctly. Missing right now would be absolutely brutal.

12:01 AM – Sohum makes it five with a correct spelling of pendeloque (ML Advanced)!

12:02 AM – Abhijay spells palama (ML Advanced) correctly and is the sixth champion!

12:03 AM – Christopher spells cernuous (ML Advanced) correctly and is the seventh champion! Now it’s all on Rohan…

12:04 AM – This is the last word in the competition either way, and as far as I know a Bee has never ended in a missed word. Hopefully this isn’t the first. Rohan gets odylic (ML Advanced, 2005 Round 14)… CORRECT!!!!!!!! THE SCRIPPS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE HAS EIGHT CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HISTORY HAS BEEN MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, this will take some debriefing and analysis. This is exciting, crazy, and shocking. There’s one thing you can bet on: change, major change, is going to come to the Bee. WOW!

On a less newsworthy but personally exciting note: I just did some analysis and discovered that this is the first year where my Master List of just over 93,000 words has gone a perfect 100.0% on the surprise words used throughout the entirety of the competition, including all Prelim rounds. Although there are around 500,000 words in the dictionary, I think I’ve officially cracked the Bee word-selection code, after thousands of hours of deep analysis. Later, I’ll analyze how the other study resources did individually and all combined, compared to the Master List.

Of course, having the words themselves is only half the battle. I have some big plans this summer for developing study programs, tools, resources, and lists for preparation based on the principles of maximum thoroughness, comprehension, retention, speed of learning, and statistical efficiency. I also plan to release the Master List for sale (or at least a substantial part of it). After this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Scripps changes their approach a little, so I’ll be spending lots of time making sure I’m in tune with whatever those changes are. Stay tuned by signing up for the newsletter or following this site!

Signing off for now,

Cole Shafer-Ray