November 3, 2011
Monday, Jan 2
The Williamsburg Spelling Bee
Pete’s Candy Store, 709 Lorimer St., Brooklyn
(Lorimer St. between Frost and Richardson / L or G train to Lorimer)
From “broccoli” to “triskaidekaphobia,” come test out your spelling in a bar backroom filled with smart people and beer. Free, open to all (21+). Signup begins at 7pm — first 18 people get to play. Three-strikes-you’re-out policy means more participation for everyone. Hosted by founder bobbyblue and comedian Jen Dziura. Winners get nerdy prizes and qualify for the annual Finals.
June 6, 2011
September 30, 2010
Tonight, I shall be competing in 826NYC’s The Spelling Beast, against celebrities including Dave Eggers, Catherine Keener, Kristin Schaal, and Ira Glass.
I was pretty flattered when 826 got in touch — someone actually wants me to spell! On the other side of the mic! It’s like I no longer have a firm grasp of my own identity!
I assembled a team of experts, and we’ve been raising cash here.
Tickets are $25. Doors at 7pm. All proceeds support youth literacy programs.
August 18, 2010
In the Nocturnalist column by Sarah Maslin Nir: Spellbound in Brooklyn.
The Williamsburg Spelling Bee kicked off its first bee of the new season this Monday. Despite a brief but sloppy downpour, we filled up before 7:30 and had to turn people away. I didn’t realize the NYT was in attendance until the bee was over, and all the sudden there was a woman with a notepad.
Some words from this week’s bee:
Come back Monday, August 30 for your next shot. (Arrive early! Signup begins at 7, and we take the first 18 people).
May 11, 2010
See the complete photoset and results on the Williamsburg Spelling Bee blog.
April 29, 2010
The new Games magazine is out, featuring a four-page article about the Williamsburg Spelling Bee and a cute sidebar about me. Here’s one page (click to enlarge):
If you want to pick up a copy (hi, Mom!), Games is available at Barnes and Noble, sometimes hiding in a special display full of Sudoku periodicals. You want the issue that looks like this:
April 14, 2010
Congratulations to last night’s Williamsburg Spelling Bee winners:
1st place: Maddy DeLeon
2nd place: Carolyn D’Aquila
3rd place: Trent Williams
All three winners qualify for the season finals.
Come out to our next bee on Monday, April 26th! Everyone is welcome.
April 7, 2010
The book So You Think You Can Spell? came out last October, and we here at the Williamsburg Spelling Bee were gifted a few copies which we, in turn, gifted to that season’s spelling winners.
It might be difficult to imagine just how to practice your spelling from a book. For instance, the (children’s) book How to Spell Like a Champ is accompanied by a CD, and I, on my Spelling Word of the Day blog, post my content as audio files, so you can spell the word for yourself before clicking to read the answer.
However, I cracked the book open to a random page and the first thing I saw was a quiz question challenging me to pluralize “auto-da-fé,” and I said, goddamn, dog, you’ve figured something out here.
Much of the book is in the form of quizzes in which, for instance, the authors have provided a phonetic pronunciation (muh-KAK) and a definition (short-tailed Asian monkey), and your job is to write “macaque.” Some quizzes provide several possible spellings, challenging you to circle the correct one. What I’m trying to say is: this book is really actually quite challenging and worthwhile, even for people who already host or attend adult spelling bees in bars.
Of course, I couldn’t finish off this post without including a link to NPR’s February 26th Cityscape show, in which two spellers from the Williamsburg Spelling Bee were quizzed by So You Think You Can Spell? authors David L. Grambs and Ellen S. Levine.
And finally: So You Think You Can Spell? now has its own website, where the authors wrote of the Williamsburg bee:
This is not one of those rowdy saloon bees, and there are more than a few around, that value lubrication and lubricity more than lucubration and literacy from the competing performers.
Spelling for adults is kind of a small world.
Cross-posted from the Williamsburg Spelling Bee Blog.
March 23, 2010
March 22, 2010
Did you know that my spelling bee co-host bobbyblue and I are available for private parties? Indeed we are! We recently hosted a spelling bee at 50Parties at Ryan McGinness Studios. Here are some photos from bobby:
March 12, 2010
Did you know that the first-ever televised game show — in 1938 — was a spelling bee?
According to UKgameshows.com, that program (or rather, programme) began with a US vs. UK match featuring Harvard and Oxford students (US won), followed by a US/UK rematch featuring actresses and various notables (UK won), followed by “Under Twenty” vs. “Over Forty” (over 40 won), followed by Women vs. Men (women won). The show was a tight 15 minutes, and was ultimately canceled when the imminent war made televised spelling seem a bit frivolous. Incidentally, the spelling bee game show led to several spinoffs, including, amazingly, Tactile Bee.
The impetus for this post is that my longtime Williamsburg Spelling Bee co-host, bobbyblue, found a copy of the board game “Paul Wing’s Spelling Bee” on eBay, purchased it, and allowed me to borrow it for purposes of investigative reporting.
The game of zest and test!
(Apparently, Paul Wing was a giant in the field of film stereography, continuing his career from the 1930s through the 1990s, and also, according to IMDB, survived the Bataan Death March; it is perhaps lost to the shifting sands of time exactly how Mr. Wing ended up hosting a televised spelling bee).
Apparently, spelling fans are called “rooters.”
Every hostess will appreciate a game that doesn’t require moving the furniture!
One of the harder sets of words. One list had food words, including “pumpkin.”
The game was played by choosing a word caller, then going around the room and having people pull numbered disks out of a bag; the number on the disk determined the word you would spell (and some words were notably easier than others, so it was a bit of a game of chance). Correct moves got you a little green counter called a “honey,” and wrong moves got you a little red counter called a “stinger” (because it’s a bee, get it?)
I only had my gentleman consort around, and it’s a pretty lame game with only two people. I asked him to spell “blancmange,” and he insisted that I had not pronounced it like a true French person (neither, I imagine, did most people playing Paul Wing’s Spelling Bee in 1938), so I gave him a re-do and he got “pumpkin.” We sort of shrugged and gave up.
Zest and test! I kind of like the slogan.
March 9, 2010
March 6, 2010
The Williamsburg Spelling Bee was featured on WFUV’s “Cityscape” show a couple weeks ago, and the podcast has finally gone up. The show begins with a clip of our theme song, so I can now say I’ve sung on the radio!
March 2, 2010
Last night’s spelling bee featured words including bondieuserie, phrontistery, bagatelle, psephology, gyroceracone, and phthisiology. A reporter from NBC New York came, and this went up this morning:
February 16, 2010
Last night’s Williamsburg Spelling Bee was a delight, attended by myriad spelling dynamos and their supportive compatriots, and covered by Games magazine.
Congratulations to winner David Riddle, who spelled 17 words correctly before we had him sit down. (The rules are that you keep spelling until you get three words out, but since David had scored 17-1 and it seemed unlikely that anyone would catch up, we had him take a seat, telling him that we’d call him back up if anyone matched his total; no one did. That’s the spelling equivalent of a K.O.).
Everyone’s welcome at the next bee on March 1st (details). We take the first 18 people to sign up, and signup begins at 7pm, so arrive early to ensure that you’ll get a spot.
Photos by Eric Walton: