Last night’s Wheel Of Fortune featured a contestant who just happened to rattle off what host Pat Sajak called “the most amazing solve in my 30+ years on the show.” That’s probably not an exaggeration—this is as stunning as televised Hangman gets. For the full surprise, watch the video before reading on. (And if you’re impatient, the action gets underway about 40 seconds in.)
Among the highlights of this bonus round are the full three seconds that elapse between Emil’s answer and the puzzle board lighting up. That delay is the sound of Sajak, Vanna White, and the Wheel Of Fortune production crew thinking, “What the hell?” For that moment, Sajak wonders if something is amiss—if he, the easygoing emcee who never hurt anyone, just got taken by the biggest inside job in American syndicated early-evening game show history. It is hard to fathom, after all, that both the puzzle writers and a desperate contestant would stumble onto the same obscurity of the English language.
Because come on, “NEW BABY BUGGY” is not a thing, not even by Wheel Of Fortune’s permissive “after 39 years on the air, you run out of good puzzles” standard. It isn’t a common phrase, it has an old-fashioned word, and if the contestant doesn’t call “B” or “Y,” he’s practically screwed. This puzzle was not meant to be solved. This is the kind of puzzle that an executive producer slips into the mix when the show is pushing its prize budget for the month. “Hey, Lou, the wheel’s been a little ‘fortunate’ lately, so maybe tonight our friend gets one of those ‘not quite right’ puzzles. You know the ones I mean? Maybe a little ‘FORBEARANCE LAW’ or ‘MACHINE WORKMAN.’ I’ll leave it up to you, Lou.”
Tonight's "Wheel of Fortune" features most amazing solve in my 30+ years on the show. No kidding.
— Pat Sajak (@patsajak) March 19, 2014
After the post-victory commercial break, Pat and Vanna corral Emil so that he can tell everyone how he did it. The interview offers a rare glimpse of the used-letter board, which savvy Wheel contestants use to make sure they don’t call a “T” when the last guy just asked for a “T,” you idiot, and now everybody’s laughing at you on national television. Emil explains to the home viewers that he glanced up at the used-letter board, saw the letter “B” first, and took this as a sign that many of the blank spots in the puzzle would be “B.” Sajak does not have the heart to tell Emil that the letters on the board are simply listed in alphabetical order.
While Sajak appears to be truly stunned, he also appears to have a shtick ready for a moment like this. A Deadspin commenter notes that after a contestant came up with a surprising bonus-round solve years ago (as seen in the YouTube clip compilation below), Sajak did the same frisking routine that he gave to Emil on last night’s show. Always prepared—the guy is an old pro. [via Deadspin]