'Wheel of Fortune' contestant who lost on a technicality speaks out about rule change debate

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There are no hard feelings for “Wheel of Fortune” contestant David Petersen despite recently losing big money on the show due to a technicality with the rules.

Petersen recently appeared on the game show where he inadvertently sparked calls for the show to amend its rules after the addition of one word to his answer cost him the game. During the crossword puzzle segment of the show, which was introduced in 2016, contestants are warned not to add any word but the four it takes to solve the puzzle when they answer. Unfortunately, Petersen was ensnared in a trap that previously caught another contestant in 2019 when he listed the words along with the conjunction “and,” thus costing him the game. 

“I asked Pat [Sajak] to solve it. And as I went to solve the puzzle, of course, he says every time, ‘Do not add anything.’ Well, he says this, you hear it, but the number one thing I’m focused on is pronouncing the words correctly,” Petersen told Fox News over the phone.

A spokesperson for “Wheel of Fortune” told Fox News that the rule has been in place for a while and that contestants are warned of the technicality ahead of time. 


“Our long-standing rule is that in order to have a correct puzzle solve, a contestant must say exactly what is on the board without adding words. This applies to all puzzle categories, including the ‘Crossword’ category,” the spokesperson said. “Contestants are thoroughly briefed prior to the show that to keep the game fair and objective, precision is necessary when solving the puzzles. Also, in this particular category, Pat often volunteers a reminder of this rule when contestants solve a puzzle.”

‘Wheel of Fortune’ contestant David Petersen lost on a technicality during a recent episode.
(David Petersen)

Petersen admits that even he is guilty of sitting at home wondering how anyone could make such a mistake despite being warned on the air. However, he says getting in the studio under the lights, camera and crowd turns “Wheel of Fortune” into a completely different experience.

He also noted that the mistake is easier to make than people think.

“It’s such a natural part of the English syntax that we use. Our high school teachers have taught us and even our elementary school teachers taught us to put the word ‘and’ in between the last two items of a list of items,” he added. “You literally have to voluntarily turn off that English language syntax that we’ve been trained in for years.”

Despite losing on the hotly debated technicality, Petersen makes it very clear that he understands he lost fair-and-square. 

“I do not deserve to win that ‘Wheel of Fortune’ money prize for attempting to solve the crossword puzzle,” he declared. “The rules stated during my game that you cannot add anything and I added the word ‘and.’”

He continued: “There’s nothing unfair about what happened. It’s a rule.”

Although Petersen understands the logic behind his loss, he still falls on the side of fans who are calling on the game show to alter the rule so that the consequences for future contestants who add the common conjunction aren’t so dire. 


“My suggestion to the ‘Wheel of Fortune’ people, if I was consulting with the producers… I would say, have Pat say ‘don’t add the word “and”’ if it’s that important and if you want to say that consistently,” Petersen suggested. “He’s having to say it consistently because people mess up on that because it’s a natural part of the English language.”

Overall, like many fans, the former contestant feels that there’s nothing wrong with a rule change in any game if it improves the overall competition.  

“All the sports leagues change rules all the time. You can modify a game to make it better. The NFL, the NBA, they all do it every year to make the game better,” he explained. 

‘Wheel of Fortune’ is facing calls to amend one of its most controversial rules.
(Christopher Willard via Getty Images)

Despite losing the top prize and being thrust into a debate among “Wheel of Fortune” fans about a potential rule change, Petersen says he would do it all again in a heartbeat, even knowing the outcome would be the same.


“It was just really a privilege to be on the show,” he concluded. “And I encourage anyone that could apply to the show to get on it and see how great it is to watch this whole process work. I mean, it really is a fantastic, American, iconic show.”


Fortunately, Petersen did not walk away empty-handed, bringing in $1,000 in prize money. He noted that he already gave a portion of it to his daughter, who encouraged him to be on the show in the first place. He explained that sharing something with her was all the prize he needed.

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