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Who's the best speller of them all? A Grown Up Spelling Bee defies convention, brings hot competition

Who's the best speller of them all? A Grown Up Spelling Bee defies convention, brings hot competition

6, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Linsay Radcliffe, Jeremy Radcliffe
Linsay Radcliffe , Jeremy Radcliffe Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
18, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Isabel David, Danny David
Danny David , Isabel David Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
3, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Angie Wickert, Ben Wickert
Angie Wickert , Ben Wickert Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
9, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Molly Hubbard, Campbell Eitler, Susan Criner
Molly Hubbard , Campbell Eitler , Susan Criner Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
19, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Kristy Bradshaw, Chris Bradshaw
Kristy Bradshaw , Chris Bradshaw Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
5, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Paige Griffin, William Griffin
Paige Griffin , William Griffin Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
16, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Marita Fairbanks, Sally Kolenda
Marita Fairbanks , Sally Kolenda Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
24, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Leisa Holland-Nelson, Laura Nelson24, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Leisa Holland-Nelson, Laura Nelson
Leisa Holland-Nelson , Laura Nelson Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
29, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, John Fitzpatrick, Campbell Eitler, Michael Pipkin, Laura Shedy
John Fitzpatrick , Campbell Eitler , Michael Pipkin , Laura Shedy Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
28, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Ralph Polley, Marcey Danie, Jerry Davis
Ralph Polley , Marcey Danie , Jerry Davis Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
25, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Holly Radom, Steve Radom
Holly Radom , Steve Radom Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
21, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Katy Atlas, Chad Atlas
Chad Atlas , Katy Atlas Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
13, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Anni Ranck, Carrington Wright
Anni Ranck , Carrington Wright Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
10, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Charles Butt, Sheri Foreman
Charles Butt , Sheri Foreman Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
1, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Heather Safi, Rob Safi
Rob Safi , Heather Safi Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
8, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Katie Flaherty, Ting Bresnahan, John Bresnahan
Katie Flaherty , Ting Bresnahan , John Bresnahan Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
4, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Matt Summers, Lauren Moncrief, Matt Moncrief
Matt Summers , Lauren Moncrief , Matt Moncrief Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
2, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Louis Skidmore, Molly Hubbard, Milton Townsend
Louis Skidmore , Molly Hubbard , Milton Townsend Photo by © Roswitha Vogler/Photosbyrovo.com
6, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Linsay Radcliffe, Jeremy Radcliffe
18, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Isabel David, Danny David
3, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Angie Wickert, Ben Wickert
9, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Molly Hubbard, Campbell Eitler, Susan Criner
19, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Kristy Bradshaw, Chris Bradshaw
5, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Paige Griffin, William Griffin
16, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Marita Fairbanks, Sally Kolenda
24, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Leisa Holland-Nelson, Laura Nelson24, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Leisa Holland-Nelson, Laura Nelson
29, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, John Fitzpatrick, Campbell Eitler, Michael Pipkin, Laura Shedy
28, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Ralph Polley, Marcey Danie, Jerry Davis
25, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Holly Radom, Steve Radom
21, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Katy Atlas, Chad Atlas
13, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Anni Ranck, Carrington Wright
10, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Charles Butt, Sheri Foreman
1, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Heather Safi, Rob Safi
8, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Katie Flaherty, Ting Bresnahan, John Bresnahan
4, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Matt Summers, Lauren Moncrief, Matt Moncrief
2, Spelling Bee, Janaury 2013, Louis Skidmore, Molly Hubbard, Milton Townsend

In a society where spell checkers and auto-corrects render people's spelling faculties a tad lackadaisical — and offer hilarious faux pas on occasion —  only the fearless would dare put their language prowess, or lack thereof, on trial.

Consider this: Could you spell puissant, moiety, hessian, princox, scrutator or malacia, words that don't appear in some digital dictionaries, under pressure?

Following cocktails and amuse-gueules in the Julia Ideson Library's atrium, contestants and their groupies marched right up to the reading room and Tudor Gallery, ushered by 1920s jazzy riffs courtesy of the lively Leo Polk jazz quartet for dinner prepared by Jackson and Co.

In a setting that resembled a tableau right out of To Kill A Mockingbird, the Spanish Revival stylings of the bibliothèque were charmingly suited for Houston Center for Literacy's "21st Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee" Thursday, where a scholarly yet au courant assemblage of 250 converged in support of the nonprofit's vocation to make illiteracy a thing of the past. 

Last year's defending champs, attorneys Matthew Behncke and Ryan Caughey of Susman Godfrey, relinquished their title to Houston Bar Association's wordsmiths Linda Marshall and Ben Wickert.

Forget Words with Friends. This orthography feud wasn't your stereotypical affair of proper Ps and Qs. Witty pronouncer Meredith Walker, co-creator and executive producer of Smart Girls at the Party, and Nic Phillips, dressed as a studious school principal of sorts, offered waggish clues as, "He wanted to be the flâneur of Houston society, but he lived with his mother — outside the Loop."

Teams including the Missing Vowels, The Bee-lievers and Spell-You-Later faired well during the first few rounds. But at the conclusion, last year's defending champs, attorneys Matthew Behncke and Ryan Caughey of Susman Godfrey, relinquished their title to Houston Bar Association's wordsmiths Linda Marshall and Ben Wickert.

The winning riddle? From French, enceinte, meaning pregnant. 

Chairs Isabel and Danny David and Heather and Rob Safi honored Linsay and Jeremy Radcliffe's tireless commitment to the nonprofit's services that enable tutors like Steve McCarthy to help adults learners like Nicholas Beauregard, who hopes to enroll at Houston Community College to study culinary arts. Handwritten testimonials from other language learners reminded guests that Houston Center for Literacy changes people's lives.

This bee roused patrons to gather $155,000 and Wells Fargo to pledge $50,000 for HCL president and CEO Sheri Suarez Foreman's literacy awareness campaign.

Dotting I's and crossing the T's were Phoebe Tudor, Gracie Cavnar, Leisa Holland-Nelson and daughter Laura, Mark Sullivan, Peter Remington, Marita Fairbanks, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Sally Kolenda, Jen and Steve Dolman, Angie Wickert, William Griffin (who took a new position as region executive and managing director at U.S. Trust), Council Member Jerry Davis, Holly and Steve Radom, Molly Hubbard, Campbell Eitler and Susan Criner.