Spelling bee veteran rises to the occasion

Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., holds his trophy after he won the National Spelling Bee on Thursday in Oxon Hill, Md. (Associated Press)
Arvind Mahankali, 13, of Bayside Hills, N.Y., holds his trophy after he won the National Spelling Bee on Thursday in Oxon Hill, Md. (Associated Press)

After years of heartbreakingly close calls, Arvind Mahankali conquered his nemesis, German, to become the champion speller in the English language.

The 13-year-old from Bayside Hills, N.Y., correctly spelled “knaidel,” a word for a small mass of leavened dough, to win the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night. The bee tested brain power, composure and, for the first time, knowledge of vocabulary.

Arvind finished in third place in both 2011 and 2012, and both times, he was eliminated on German-derived words. This time, he got one German word in the finals, and the winning word was from German-derived Yiddish, eliciting groans and laughter from the crowd. He spelled both with ease. “The German curse has turned into a German blessing,” he said.

An aspiring physicist who admires Albert Einstein, Arvind said he would spend more time studying physics this summer now that he’s “retired” from the spelling bee.

Arvind becomes the sixth consecutive Indian-American winner and the 11th in the past 15 years.

Minaj, right behind Carey, leaving ‘Idol’

Nicki Minaj is following Mariah Carey out the door on “American Idol.” The hip-hop diva posted Thursday on Twitter that it was “time to focus on the music,” just a few hours after Carey announced she wasn’t coming back to the Fox talent competition so that she could focus on her upcoming tour.

Minaj and Carey became new judges on “Idol” this season, along with country singer Keith Urban. Minaj and Carey frequently bickered on the show, creating a feud that was uncomfortable for both viewers and contestants.

Randy Jackson, the show’s lone remaining original judge, announced earlier this month that he was leaving the show ahead of its 12th season finale, which crowned booming R&B vocalist Candice Glover as the latest “Idol.”

The birthday bunch

Actor-director Clint Eastwood is 83. Singer Peter Yarrow is 75. Actress Sharon Gless is 70. Football hall-of-famer Joe Namath is 70. Actor Tom Berenger is 63. Comedian Chris Elliott is 53. Actress Lea Thompson is 52. Singer Corey Hart is 51. Rapper DMC is 49. Actress Brooke Shields is 48. Actor Colin Farrell is 37.

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