O-U-T-R-A-G-E-D: Look, there was a lot of tsuris in 2010 when the Bee hacked an afternoon round in half to have a suitable number for primetime. It was worth exploring ways to fix it.
But this is worse. Much worse. Because (a) once you get to Thursday, all decisions should be made based on how kids do at a live microphone, and (b) even if you were to use some additional test to make a final cut, publishing its results before the spelling is done robs so much suspense from the rounds, especially for those kids (and their families) who know that not only do they not control their own destinies but they have no ability to make the finals no matter what.
A superior solution is simple: keep having afternoon rounds until you finish a round with 15 or fewer spellers.
Bee organizers have enough experience with word difficulty to know how to titrate a round to eliminate a particular percentage of spellers, more or less. It's not rocket surgery. We know what a Bloodbath rounds looks like. And whether you have 15 kids in primetime or start the evening with 8, it's fine: because they will be the best kids in spelling words in front of a live microphone, which is what the Bee is. Or was..
Instead, about 176/283 spellers were eliminated without getting a word wrong in front of a microphone. The kids don't get that drama, and moment, and we don't get to see it. Nor do we get the flipside: while the finalists have now spelled/defined 54 words in making their way to the finals, we've only seen four of them. We don't know who's the most impressive the bunch, and we don't get to know the kids as well as we used to, back when 6-7 live rounds were held on Wednesday-Thursday before the primetime finals. Instead, just four rounds, with today's having weird, icky inevitability hanging over them.
This can, and must change.