“On Thursday night’s show, contestant Kristen Shaw solved a crossword puzzle challenge. But because she inserted the word ‘and’ in her answer, she violated the rules of the game. Her answer was ‘Right, football, left and Sally,'” states the Deadline article.
Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak explained that the tiny technicality could prove disastrous for contestants. It’s unfortunate because the slippage is usually a subconscious mistake. Contestants don’t even realize they threw in the extra word until it’s too late. Sajak appeared to feel quite badly for Shaw. He was unable to do anything to assist her due to the stringent technical rules of the game show.
Due to her error, Shaw lost out on almost 2,000 dollars, and a lavish trip to Nashville estimated to be worth around 8,000 dollars. Contestant Bryan Idler noticed Shaw’s mistake and won the game instead. The Chicago Sun Times reports that Idler went home with 3,550 dollars altogether.
However, many Wheel of Fortune viewers feel that Shaw was mistreated and should be able to claim her prizes due to the minuscule nature of her error.
“The ‘and’ rule is garbage. She deserved Nashville!” exclaimed one person.
“They can easily change the rule to allow “and” as part of your verbal answer. Conjunctions are natural parts of speech an should be ok for crosswords. #WheelOfFortune,” expressed a second user.
Some fans were less forgiving of Shaw’s mistake.
“As a former contestant, I can tell you firsthand that they do in fact emphasize over and over again pronunciation and not adding or taking away ANYTHING. The mistake is totally on her.”
Sadly, it’s unlikely that Shaw will get her winnings. Wheel of Fortune operates by very technical guidelines. It wouldn’t be fair to the other game players who have made similar flubs in the past to give her a pass.
The official statement from a game show spokesperson is quoted in the aforementioned Deadline piece. The spokesperson stated that the rule is a “long-standing” one and that the contestant should have been aware of it beforehand, especially as it’s customary for Sajak to warn all participants about the usage of any extra wording that isn’t explicitly part of the puzzles.
They also note that host Sajak typically goes out of his way to remind the contestants of this rule to try and prevent mistakes like Shaw’s from happening on a regular basis.