Though impressive, Laodicean doesn't qualify as the toughest word given in 2009...at least, not in my estimation. A case could be made for a word Kavya nailed a few rounds earlier: "diacoele." Not only did she spell the word correctly, but she asked two root word questions that were dead-on...not just in the meanings of the roots, but even the original pronunciations of the roots. (It was with her effortless and insightful navigation of "diacoele" that I decided that Kavya was unstoppable, and the title was all but hers.)
But in actuality, the penultimate word, given to Tim Ruiter of Centreville, Virginia, was the true skullbuster. "Maecenas," meaning a generous benefactor, has an incredibly tricky beginning, as you can see. It is a Latin word, which doesn't necessarily help with that beginning. But to confuse things more, Maecenas is somewhat similar to a Greek word for an ancient civilization near Crete: Mycenae.
The pronunciation is also pretty inscrutable, particularly the first one listed in Webster's Third. The first syllable is pronounced with that dreaded schwa. It can also be pronounced with a long "e" or a long "i."
One of the difficult aspects of spelling bees nowadays - particularly at the national level - is the well-known "luck of the draw." And it is easy to imagine that some words are thrown into the bee with the sole purpose of eliminating spellers. For these, either you know the word or you don't. And in my estimation, the word "Maecenas" definitely qualifies in this category. But now that the word has been used at the NSB, and has a very accessible definition, it's a great word to know.