Who knew Wheel of Fortune was so ruthless? A contestant on the TV game show missed a question Wednesday on a technicality, ultimately losing the game.
Wheel of Fortune contestant David Pederson solved a fish-themed crossword puzzle question correctly but was still told his answer was incorrect, Yahoo Entertainment reports, because he added an “and” to his otherwise accurate answer of “sole, flounder, cod, and catfish.” In a video, host Pat Sajak can be heard reminding Pederson “say everything, don’t add anything,” since Wheel of Fortune’s rules state that players can’t add any words to their answers. As USA Today reports, another contestant then won the question by giving the same answer, without the “and.” Pederson still walked away with $1,000, according to Yahoo, but come on.
Now, I’m a big fan of pedantry in all its forms, as my colleagues here at Kotaku can attest. And the silly strictness of TV game show rules is part of what makes them so fun, with Jeopardy’s “answer in the form of a question” being a household meme. But it’s such a ridiculous technicality; you can hear the disappointment in Sajak’s voice as he says, “Sorry, that’s not right,” especially since he just warned the guy! Everyone clearly knows Pederson knew the answer. Give the dude his money, Pat!
This apparently isn’t the first time this finicky rule has cost a Wheel of Fortune player some money; another player made the same mistake in 2019. Fans are in a hot debate on social media; in a thread on the Wheel of Fortune subreddit (there’s a Wheel of Fortune subreddit, by the way), some feel the rule should obviously go, while others point out that it’s not only a clear rule, but that Sajak even warns the contestants about it before they answer. Others feel the reminder is a clear signal that the rule is silly; if it’s that hard to remember, it’s not a very good rule, is it? On Twitter, the Wheel of Fortune hashtag (also real) is alight with spirited, complex debate. I’m not even being facetious; this is a tricky one!
Apparently, even Jeopardy has relaxed some of its strictness about the “answer as a question” format. A post on the show’s site from 2016 states that “If a contestant gives a response to a non-Daily Double clue in the Jeopardy! round that is not in the form of a question, Alex will give them a reminder. However, if a contestant forgets their phrasing in the Double Jeopardy! round, during Final Jeopardy! or for any Daily Double clue, they will be ruled incorrect.” This is arguably more complicated and thus harder to remember than Wheel of Fortune’s pretty basic strictures. But at least it accounts for the fact that the human brain is doing a billion awe-inspiring feats of nature a second and that, because of the incredible mysteries of life and consciousness, sometimes words fall out of our dumb human mouths when we’re in high-stakes situations on TV game shows.
I’ve never watched Wheel of Fortune outside of dentists’ waiting rooms and older relatives falling asleep on the TV remote, so I don’t have a ton of skin in this game. But reading fans’ thoughts is making me rethink my initial “oh, come on” stance; I mean, rules are rules! Dude knew what he was getting into! I’ll let the hardcore fans duke this one out, but I hope Pederson buys himself something nice with the money he did take home. Guy deserves it.