Yukoner travels across, down to big crossword tournament

Here's the clue: Biggest crossword fan in Yukon — 15 letters.

Answer? Virginia Labelle.

She recently travelled across the continent to spend a weekend competing in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, in Stamford, Conn. It's the largest and oldest event of its kind in the U.S.

"All I can say is, it's nerd world. The most geeky fun you can have!" Labelle laughed.

"It was so amazing, and you meet the most amazing people there."

Submitted by Virginia Labelle

Labelle attended on a bit of a whim. She had wanted to go to the tournament since seeing the movie Wordplay, a 2006 documentary about crossword puzzle enthusiasts.  

"I just thought, these are my people, and this is fabulous — I have to go and do this," she recalled.

"And I looked at my schedule and went, oh my gosh — I have an airline credit and you know, I'm not working these few days, so I could actually go and do this."

Besides the puzzles — six on the first day of the tournament alone — a highlight for Labelle was meeting Will Shortz, the longtime crossword editor for the New York Times.

Shortz may be the closest thing there is to a crossword celebrity. Seeing him at a crossword tournament is akin to spotting William Shatner at a Star Trek convention.

Submitted by Virginia Labelle

"I'm just freaked out," Labelle said. "Of course, everybody is doing selfies with this famous guy."

By the end of the weekend, Labelle had puzzled her way into the upper half of the final rankings, placing 274th out of 741 participants — not high enough to win a cash prize, but she doesn't mind.

"I do have to say, I was pretty pleased ... I'm thinking, 'oh this is cool, I'm good with this.' And the puzzles were so fun."