The player, Emil de Leon, had to guess a "thing" that began with three letters, followed by four and five letter words. The only letters in view were the first two: NE
Sajak doubted de Leon’s chances to solve it. "This looks tough to me. It's a thing. You're a really good problem solver, but I don't know. You have 10 seconds. Keep talking, maybe the right thing will pop out. Good luck."
De Leon then promptly guessed "New baby buggy" with his first attempt, winning a whopping $45,000.
A stunned Sajak jokingly frisked the player and then tweeted later, "Tonight's 'Wheel of Fortune' features most amazing solve in my 30+ years on the show. No kidding.”
Was it just a lucky guess? The Washington Post said de Leon was more likely skilled at deducing what letters were left to complete the phrase.
For example, with the letters N and E visible, the first word almost certainly had to be "New."
The Post’s cultural blogger Caitlin Dewey then pointed out that since de Leon was able to see a used letter board, he would have read, "ABC FG IJK PQ UVWXYZ" because he already guessed H, M, D and O.
Cancelling out letters like Q, J, Z, X, V, K and W, which appear in less than 1.5 percent of English words, de Leon needed to put together two words of four and five letters using A, B, C, F, G, I, P, U and Y.
Dewey said de Leon could only have 53 possible five-letter words and that most of them are not things.
The quick-thinking de Leon knew how to play the game and was able to figure out a valid guess, but it’s still astounding.