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Words With Friends: Spelling Bee Returns to Scarsdale

HoneyBowlScarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl: Janice Starr, Randy Guggenheimer, Frank Lichtenberg.The 2020 Spelling Bee at SHS on Friday night January 31 was a challenge for the 57 contestants on stage as well as all of us in the audience, striving to spell some puzzling words. The event attracted 19 teams, with clever names like the BEEtles, Killer Bees, We Spell Trouble, Don’t Stop Bee-lievin, Ladies of the Loft (from the library) and a group of library trustees, called the TrustBees. Also on stage were two teams of realtors, four teams of high schools students and previous winners who not surprisingly won again!

The event was sponsored by the Friends of the Scarsdale Library, to raise funds for the large-scale renovation of the library now underway. Introducing the fun were Library Friends President Dara Gruenberg and Scarsdale Library Director Beth Bermel.

Ed Coleman, a community member and Voice of the Mets, returned as MC, and clearly articulated some very obscure words. Expert judges included Library Director Beth Bermel, NYS Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Scarsdale Mayor Marc Samwick.

The opening rounds included a few giveaways like NECESSARY and SCISSORS, but it wasn’t long before teams were dropping like flies – after tripping up on LIAISON, BOURGEOIS and INOCULATE (In fact, it doesn’t have two “N’s”)

Another stumper, DUMBBELL, was misspelled by all four teams in one of the swarms. And in that case, with no one spelling it correctly, all four teams remained.

In the first swarm, Killer Bees Jenn Love, Sharon Hoffman and Chris Riback successfully spelled ONOMATOPOEIA, and won their swarm.

We Spell Gud with Judy McEvoy, Kevin McEvoy and Simon Landless emerged the winner of the second swarm after correctly spelling EMBARRASS, NONPAREIL and MERETRICIOUS.

Swarm C proceeded quickly, when DACQUIRI proved easier to drink than to spell. The second H in the word DACHSHUND tripped up another team and a third team was eliminated when they spelled CAMARADERIE – with an O rather than an A as the second letter.

That left Bee Bee Kings and Scarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl to spar for the swarm. They successfully spelling DILETTANTE and wespellgudWe Spell Gud: Judy and Kevin McEvoy, Simon LandlessFLUORESCENT, before the Bee Bee Kings lost their ARRYTHMIA, and the Foundation Honey Bees, including Randy Guggenheimer, Janice Starr and Frank Lichtenberg dominated their swarm.

The last swarm consisted of four high school teams, who all successfully spelled PALINDROME and JEWELRY before all the teams misspelled CAPPUCCINO. The round ended in an instant, when three teams misspelled CALIOPE leaving the Bee Gees to go to the final round.

After intermission and refreshments, the competition heated up, with the four winning teams from Swarms A through D competing in the championship round. In this round, teams took turns spelling, and the teens survived the spelling of ADOLESCENT. Randy Guggenheimer spelled BIVOUAC, “We Spell Gud” outlived the GUILLOTINE (who knew it had two L’s?) and the teams traded words until the teens missed CURMUDGEON.

The contest continued with DOPPELGANGER and CREPUSCULAR. Sharon Hoffman of the Killer Bees spelled MAELSTROM, QUESTIONNAIRE and CARDAMOM and appeared to be the queen of the hive but was ultimately knocked out by QUOTIDIAN – using an E for the A – a mistake anyway could make.

That left We Spell Gud and the Scarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl to duke it out.

The words got tougher by the minute – from ANODYNE and BADINAGE to REVEILLE and DIPHTHONG. This round featured words from all over the world, laced with extra vowels. Simon Landless and Randy Guggenheimer, backed by their teams, wowed the crowd spelling FRANKINCENSE and DAGUERREOTYPE.

When Guggenheimer missed BOUILLIABAISSE, it looked like “We Spell Gud” would take home first prize. But lo and behold they were given a middle English word dating back to Shakespeare, “GUERDON,” and got that wrong, so the contest went on. The suspense continued as both HASANPFEFFER (German Stew) and FAIENCE (French China) were also misspelled. Finally the Foundation Honey Bowl spelled PHAETON, We Spell Gud missed URCEOLATE and the night ended with a victory for Scarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl team members Randy Guggenheimer, Janice Starr and Frank Lichtenberg. 

Janice Staff said, "It was a pleasure to participate in one of my favorite activities, the Scarsdale Spelling Bee, and to contribute to the success of the fundraiser benefiting the Scarsdale Library. Whether I win or lose, it is so much fun to compete (and I have experienced both winning and losing!), but it was a delight to be a part of the winning team along with Randy Guggenheimer and Frank Lichtenberg, both amazing spellers! I cherish these community moments and encourage others to give the spelling bee a try."

Commenting on the event, Simon Landless from "We Spell Gud," said, "This was the second time we came second at the Bee! We all had a great time. I guess I’m pretty good with spelling obscure words because I took Latin at high school. Also, this was truly a team effort. Both Judy and Kevin McEvoy are terrific spellers in their own right. Judy excels with all food-related words. And Kevin was our tie-breaker when we couldn’t agree."

KillerBeesKiller Bees: Jenn Love, Sharon Hoffman, Chris RibackIt was an impressive performance by everyone who had the courage to take to the stage.

Dara Gruenberg, President of the Friends of the Scarsdale Library commented on the event, “The Friends of the Scarsdale Library was thrilled to see such an enthusiastic turnout for the Bee! It was truly a special community event, and Scarsdale was clearly excited to come out to watch the competition and support the library. With 300 people in attendance, both adults and kids, and $40,000 raised, we could not have asked for a better outcome. Thank you to all who participated, donated, sponsored the event, and attended! Congratulations to the Scarsdale Foundation Honey Bowl team on their victory!”

(Author’s note: Following the Bee we relieved our SCIATICA from the auditorium seats and ARRYTHMIA due to the excitement, by enjoying BOUILLIABAISSE and HASANPFEFFER on our grandmother’s FAIENCE.)
BeeGeesBee Gees: Eve Mainster, Craig Carroll and Gabe LesserBeeJudgesBee Judges: Marc Samwick, Beth Bermel and Amy Paulin

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