One Wheel of Fortune contestant reached the cusp of victory on last night’s episode, but lost big on a minor technicality — and fans aren’t too happy. Yahoo reports that the game’s crossword puzzle format tripped up competitor David Pederson, who delivered the right answer, but wasn’t eligible to win because of one extra word.
The Wheel of Fortune crossword, which was first introduced on the show in 2016, challenges contestants to provide the correct answer to fill in the crossword, which typically consists of four incomplete words. The one catch is, contestants can’t include any additional words when they answer, which is the trap Pederson fell into last night.
When called on to fill in the correct answers to the crossword, Pederson replied with “Sole, Flounder, Cod, and Catfish,” which is technically the correct response. But host Pat Sajak was quick to call out Pederson for one small but significant mistake. “No, sorry. That’s not right,” he said, turning the next contestant, who answered correctly with “Sole, Flounder, Cod, Catfish.”
“I thought that’s what you said,” she told Pederson, but Sajak jumped in to explain why he didn’t secure the win, despite his nearly identical answer. “David did that thing that’s so easy to do, you added the ‘and,’” he said.
The game show moment sparked a debate on social media, where some users called out the rule as unfair, and others defended the show, pointing out that contestants were briefed on the rules before competing.
“Wheel of Fortune’s draconian rule where you lose if you add ‘and’ to the crossword puzzle has to go,” one wrote. Another added, “Another contestant losing out on money because they said AND on the crossword puzzle. @WheelofFortune just change the dumbest rule ever and allow this.”
Still, defenders hit back against the criticism, with one user tweeting, “Pat says in the very beginning of the crossword puzzle ‘do not add any words just read what is on the board.’ He stresses it very strongly. What is the issue with following the rules to win?”
This isn’t the first time the Wheel of Fortune crossword rule has cost a competitor some serious prize money. Back in 2019, competitor Kristen Shaw lost a $1,950 cash prize, plus a Nashville trip valued at over $8,000, after adding an “and” to her answer.
“Our long-standing rule is that in order to have a correct puzzle solve, a contestant must say only what is on the board without adding words,” a Wheel of Fortune spokesperson previously told Fox News. “Contestants are thoroughly briefed prior to the show, and Pat often reminds them of this rule when solving a puzzle in this particular category.”
To see last night’s Wheel moment for yourself, head to the Yahoo website. New episodes of Wheel of Fortune air weeknights at 7:30/8:30c on ABC.