SPONSORIALIA: I'm glad this round isn't on TV, because it makes the kids empty vessels into which we can hypothesize a personality and backstory to match their geography, sponsorship, and the words with which they will forever be associated. Did Theo Terry of Victoria, BC, slip out of the prelims transposing vowels in distracted, sweaty-palmed, palpitating infatuation with Hailey Ungar of Vancouver, BC -- a girl who lives but a ferry ride and a world away. Wait for him, Hailey -- spelling can be your bridge across the Straits of Georgia and Haro. And what potent concoction of boldness, understanding, and precocious (or precocial) mustacio was it that crowned subcontinental Prateek Kohli as king of the Long Island Jewish World? When will Dr. Bailly finally inform Kate Weir of Wellington, New Zealand, that while she is a speller par excellence, she stinks at geography, because this is the national spelling bee and New Zealand is neither a territory of the US nor a suburb (unlike the provinces)?
There is even drama playing out among the sponsors, apart from the spellers themselves. Look closely, and you'll see that among the assets transferred from the LA Times to the Chicago Trib in the Tribune Company's disastrous acquisition and disgorgement of the LAT was the LAT's Bee sponsorship slot. Now LA's entrant comes from the Daily News, which is less a newspaper than a stubborn protest of the one-paper system. How embarrassing is it when the LAT can't sponsor its own speller, while the Topics Newspapers of the possibly-fictitious town of Fishers, Indiana, can sponsor two?
And notice that no fewer than four newspapers -- curators of the English language -- use "intelligence" as a verb in their very own names? Spellers, commence intelligencing!