Some 120 finalists from 41 states and places as far away as Guam, Puerto Rico , and Mexico City are competing in the 1981 National Spelling Bee. The 71 girls and 49 boys range in age from 10 to 14 and were culled from an estimated 8 million participants in regional eliminations of the 54th annual contest. The bee is sponsored by Scripps-Howard newspapers in 14 cities and 104 other papers.
A new feature of the spelling bee is a "crying room" in its hotel headquarters. It is equipped with a copy of the 1976 edition of Webster's Third New International Dictionary, for spellers who are elimi nated and want to ponder their misfortune.