First Scrimmage

Spellbound: “Every September, the office of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Cincinnati issues a crisp new edition of Paideia, a comic-size booklet that lists thousands of obscure words that will appear in spelling bees across the country over the coming year — words that any competitive speller in America should know cold. Most families wait for their Paideia to arrive at school; but serious devotees know when the advance audio version of Paideia will go up on the Scripps Howard Web site. On that day each year, the Goldsteins of West Hempstead, N.Y. — Amy, Ari, J.J. and Amanda, along with their parents, Jonathan and Mona — assemble like the Von Trapps in a thunderstorm. The whole family squeezes into Amy’s bedroom and fires up the computer, and the familiar, baronial voice of the National Spelling Bee pronouncer, Alex J. Cameron, carefully enunciates each new addition to the list — aition, campanile, kittel, giaour. Each Goldstein sits with pen and paper in hand, as still and focused as a game-show contestant, and spells the words, one by one. It takes hours.” NY Times Magazine