Letters and laughs at the National Spellers Bee

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Letters and laughs at the National Spellers Bee
Ansun Sujoe, 13, of Fort Worth, Texas, left, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, of Painted Post, N.Y., raise the championship trophy after being named co-champions of the National Spelling Bee, on Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
CORRECTS SCHOOL - Isabelle Marie Simmons, 13, from the School of the Incarnation, Gambrills, Md., reacts after misspelling her word during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Mary Horton, 13, of West Melbourne, Fla., spells the word "logodaedaly" correctly during the final round of the National Spelling Bee, on Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MAY 28: Speller Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, participates during round two of the 2014 Scripps National Spelling Bee competition May 28, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. More than 250 spellers from the U.S. and seven other countries gathered to compete for the top honor in the annual spelling contest. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, competes in the finals of the 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, Thursday, May 30, 2013. Shivashankar finished the competition tied for fifth place. (Chuck Myers/MCT via Getty Images)
Eighth grade student Amber Robinson, 14, of Herbert A. Ammons Middle School, Miami, Fla., expresses her struggle to spell the word, "pelagial" during the preliminaries, round three of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Robinson failed to spell the word correctly as she spelled it, polagial. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Seventh grade student Vanya Shivashankar, 12, of California Trail Middle School, Olathe, Kansas uses her palm to write and spell the word "krypton" during the preliminaries, round three of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Shivashankar, spelled her word correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Eighth grade student Brian Reinhart, 14, of The Weiss School, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., shows his disappointment as he misspells the word, citronella, as he spelled it citrinella, during the preliminaries, round three of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Reinhart was eliminated. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Summedh Garimella of Duluth, Ga., smiles as he spells the word "spelunker" during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Riju Datta of Tampa, Fla., reacts to the word "histoplasmosis" before spelling it correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Alexandria Wilt of Martinsville, Ind., reacts after spelling the word "nonchalance" during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Jacob Williamson of Cape Coral, Fla., smiles before spelling the word "impasto" during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Isabelle Marie Simmons, from 21st Century Education Foundation, in Annapolis, Md., reacts after misspelling her word during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Sophie Bergman of Bettendorf, Iowa, spells the word "Cartesian" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Jonathan Capuyan of Salinas, Calif., practices the word "Foley" in his hand before spelling it incorrectly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Amber Robinson of Homestead, Fla., concentrates before spelling the word "pelagial" incorrectly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Amber Robinson, of Homestead, Fla., reacts after spelling the word "pelagial" incorrectly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Anika Patel of Gilberts, Ill., reacts after spelling the word "luxuriate" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Alexandra Harper, of Guayama, Puerto Rico, concentrates before spelling the word "Bildungsroman" during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Seventh grader Jennifer M. Tennant, 13, of Father Andrew White S.J. School, Leonardtown, Md., spells her word during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Tennant misspelled her word. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Alessandro Luis Bolus, of Second Mesa, Ariz., yawns while waiting for his turn during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Kate Miller of Abilene, Texas, air types as she spells the word "maelstrom" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Seongjun Lee of Seoul, South Korea, concentrates before spelling the word "apparatchik" incorrectly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Kyle Ayisi, of Pickerington, Ohio, concentrates before spelling the word "inselberg" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Kyle Ayisi of Pickerington, Ohio, concentrates before spelling the word "inselberg" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Kimmie Collins of Terre Haute, Ind., smiles after spelling the word "dreidel" during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Seventh grader Christine Alex, 13, of Whitney Young Magnet High School, Chicago, Ill., looks up as she thinks of the correct spelling of her word, "cynosure", during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Alex spelled her word correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
David Khamis of Oswego, N.Y., reacts after spelling the word "rhinoceros" incorrectly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Ed Horan of Hoboken, N.J., spells the word "fantoccini" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Sai Vishudhi Chandrasekhar of Flushing, N.Y., smiles as she spells the word "halal" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Ed Horan, of Hoboken, N.J., spells the word "fantoccini" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Ed Horan of Hoboken, N.J., spells the word "fantoccini" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Sean Hickey, of Grass Lake, Mich., reacts after spelling the word "kuchen" incorrectly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Katie Ammann, of Johnstown, N.Y., spells the word "mistletoe" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Seventh grade pupil Sean Hickey, 13, of Grass Lake Middle School, Grass Lake, Mich., leaves the stage after failing to spell his word, kuchen, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Calif., spells the word "ephemeral" correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Eighth grade pupil Brian Reinhart, 14, of The Weiss School, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., asks for clues of his word during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Reinhart spelled his word karaoke, correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Fifth grade pupil Anika Malayappan, 11, of Stadley Rough Elementary School, Danbury, Conn., listens to clues to her word during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Malayappan spelled her word Croesus, correct. - (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Eighth grade pupil Kimmie Collins, 14, of Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Terre Haute, Ind., uses her arm to write and spell her word dreidel, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Collins, spelled her word correct. Sean Kenneth Ives of Trinity Lutheran School, Crown Point , Ind., back right, waits for his turn. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Seventh grade pupil Sibani Ram, 13, of George Washington Middle School, Dubuque, Iowa, asks for clues about her word trattoria, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Ram spelled her word correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Eighth grade pupil Chloe LaFleur, 14, of Good Hope Middle School, West Monroe, La., spells her word, topeng, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. LaFleur misspelled her word topang. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Sixth grader Zander Reed, 11, of Ames Homeschool Assistance Program, Ames, Iowa, closes his eyes and spell his word precipice, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Reed spelled his word correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Sixth grade pupil Navya Murugesan, 12, of Glasgow Middle School, Baton Rouge, La., uses her palm to write and spell her word glockenspiel, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Murugesan, spelled her word correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Eighth grade pupil Chloe LaFleur, 14, of Good Hope Middle School, West Monroe, La., leaves the stage after misspelling her word, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. LaFleur misspelled her word topeng and spelled it topang. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Eighth grader Chythanya Murali, 13, of LISA Academy West, Little Rock, Ark., waves and greets the judges, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Murali, spelled her word ocelot correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Eighth grader Audrey Melton, 14, of St. Andrew Catholic Grade School, Rock Falls, Ill., struggles to spell her word "philately", during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Melton misspelled her word phalately. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Fifth grader Charles Sirui Li, 11, of Stevens Creek Elementary School, Martinez, Ga., spells his word "jacamar", during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Li spelled his word correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Eighth grader Amy A. Maldonado, 14, of Golden Gate Middle School, Naples, Fla., listens to the spelling of her word "keeshond", after misspelling it kaushaund, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Eighth grader Amber Robinson, 14, of Herbert A. Ammons Middle School, Miami, Fla., uses her palm to write her word and spell, during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Robinson spelled her word gourami, correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Seventh grader Patrizzia C. Fox-Beaudet, 12, of University Preparatory School, Redding, Calif., makes a face as she listens to clues to her word during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Fox-Beaudet spelled her word guillotine, correct. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Amy Maldonado, of Naples, Fla., spells the word "keeshond" incorrectly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Jennifer M. Tennant of Father Andrew White S.J. School, Leonardtown, Md., spells her word during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Tennant misspelled her word. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Jennifer M. Tennant of Father Andrew White S.J. School, Leonardtown, Md., spells her word during the preliminaries, round two of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Tennant misspelled her word. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Navya Murugesan of Baton Rouge, La. spells the word "glockenspiel " correctly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Audrey Melton of Rock Falls, Ill. reacts after spelling the word "philately" incorrectly during the preliminary round of the National Spelling Bee, Wednesday, May 28, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
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By JOSEPH WHITE
Associated Press

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) -- Words such as "protege" and "gesundheit" were quickly overshadowed by jokes about the George Foreman grill and the game Minesweeper as the onstage preliminary rounds began Wednesday morning at the 87th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

With most spellers having no trouble with their words, the focus shifted more to the laugh-out-loud sentences that have become a regular part of the Bee in recent years. When Lillian Allingham of Hockessin, Delaware, asked for a sentence for "odyssey," pronouncer Jacques Bailly made the audience chuckle by speaking of someone who "got lost in Costco for 35 minutes."

"You should give sentences more often," Isabel Cholbi of San Bernardino, California, told Bailly.

Bailly also spun a short tale of someone who put down the phone to "play Minesweeper until the yelling stopped" to help describe the word "belligerent." The word "coloratura" wound up in a sentence about someone getting their hand caught in a George Foreman grill. Another sentence opined: "To say that life will never be the same after kindergarten graduation is hyperbole."

It got to the point where spellers were disappointed to receive a word without a punch-line sentence.

"I only want a sentence if it's funny," Victoria Allen of Green River, Wyoming, said upon getting the word "salaam."

"Well," Bailly replied, looking at his computerized notes. "I don't think I have one."

"Shame," said Victoria, who then spelled the word correctly.

Each speller had a chance to earn points by spelling up to two words onstage during the preliminaries. The scores will be combined with a computerized spelling and vocabulary test taken Tuesday to determine who advances to the semifinals Thursday.

The finals take place Thursday night. The winner gets more than $33,000 in cash and prizes.

The spellers were 41 for 41 until the telltale bell sounded for the first time, when Amy Maldonado of Naples, Florida, was eliminated on "keeshond" (a Dutch dog breed). Amy misspelled it "kaushaund" and was ushered to the comfort area offstage. Only 24 of the 281 spellers failed to advance to the next round.

There were also signs of nerves and lucky guesses. Speller No. 9, Eesha Sohail of Bakersfield, California, looked stunned when she correctly spelled "tchotchke" (a trinket) and received a high-five from another speller when she returned to her seat.

Among the favorites was Sriram Hathwar, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Corning, New York, who placed third last year and is back for his fifth and final time.

Sriram gave a warm "Hello Dr. Bailly and friends" as he arrived at the microphone and dispatched the proper noun "Backstein," a German cheese.

Another top contender, 12-year-old Vanya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas, looked right at home onstage as she spelled "ephemeral." Vanya tied for fifth last year and is competing for the fourth time. Her sister, Kavya, won in 2009.

The other finalist from last year, 13-year-old Syamantak Payra of Friendswood, Texas, had no problem with "pasteurize." Syamantak tied for seventh in 2013.

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