When Words Failed the Spelling Bee Contender

Charlie Brown in the spelling bee!

That time in February 1966 when Charlie Brown thought he’d win friends and respect through good spelling. Today’s internet would eat him alive.

A lot of other middle-aged guys have cherished memories of the good ol’ days when they were on sports teams and won games and fame and attention, followed decades later by the deep frustration with how their athletic-hero phase was temporary, the pinnacle of those wonder years left far behind.

Me? For a few proud minutes, I had spelling bees. Recent headlines, in particular the exciting news that the National Spelling Bee at long last had its first Black American winner this week, dredged up a few of my own recollections and regrets.

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America’s Educational System Must Be Fixed for the Sake of Our Anagram Puzzles

Mot Hanks, Simpsons

Can YOU guess the answer? That’s right — it’s Matt Kuhn, one of the producers of How I Met Your Mother! Or, uh, close enough.

Today I exchanged emails with a loyal MCC reader (we’ll call her “my wife”) who spent part of her work day on a themed anagram puzzle, given to her as a light-hearted challenge to while away the seconds between hectic responsibilities. She received a list of twelve scrambled people or things from the 1960s and tasked with decrypting their true identities. No problem, right? Anagrams are a simple task straight out of Highlights for Children, or a weak issue of Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games when the writers were tired of trying.

Because her supervisors set forth no rules about what might constitute cheating, and because I know stuff, she shared the list with me so I could help her speed up the process and possibly win prizes. I like when my wife wins things because sometimes they’re shareable and I therefore also win by extension.

Three of the names on that list took us much longer than they should’ve. As a quick exercise in audience participation, see how long it takes You, the Viewers at Home, to figure out their real names before allowing your eyes to drift along further for the answers.


1. jaineicopnjl
2. jrdmneyiximh
3. ediotasowtlen

Take all the time you need. I’ll be here.

Click here for the quote-unquote “answers”!

ABC Family Orders Spelling Bee Game Show, Leaves “Bunheads” Rotting in Limbo

Alfonso Ribeiro

Former child actor Alfonso Ribeiro knows about gamesmanship. (photo credit: RangerRick via photopin cc)

If it were up to me, I’d be spending my Monday nights the same way I did last summer: watching and recapping ABC Family’s Bunheads. When I took advantage of a free advance preview of the pilot last year, I was unprepared for a show about a California dance studio to become appointment viewing for an old man who’s never before had any interest in shows about dancing, teens, or dancing teens. (I’d never even followed an ABC Family series before, unless reruns of Whose Line Is It, Anyway? count.)

Full credit for my Bunheads fandom goes to an atypical cast, talented crew, shrewd choices in songs and routines, the constant flurry of unpredictable pop-culture riffs, and Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, who had to know that a ballet dramedy would a hard sell in today’s TV landscape. Alas, too few Nielsen commoners supported its first season to guarantee its renewal, but it beat enough late-night infomercials to merit extended reconsideration by the Powers That Be…who, four months after the season finale, have yet to decide whether it lives or dies.

This same management team had no compunction announcing their latest approved acquisition this week: a weekly spelling bee! Because certified TV scientists have proven in their shiny corporate labs that America loves its game shows, erstwhile Fresh Prince sidekick Alfonso Ribeiro will be hosting the upcoming Spell-Mageddon, in which contestants must refresh themselves on their old high-school vocabulary tests and enter the low-stakes world of competitive spelling, without benefit of Auto-Correct or even Auto-text. Truly this promises to be like an aerial death match without a net.

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