Former 'Wheel of Fortune' Million Dollar Winner: 'I Couldn't Solve New Baby Buggy'
Emil De Leon's impressive "New Baby Buggy" guess on Wednesday's Wheel of Fortune wowed million of viewers, host Pat Sajak -- and even last year's million-dollar winner, who was shocked by his speed.
"I can honestly say I did not solve it when he did, I don’t know if I could have with more time," Autumn Erhard, who watched the episode live at home, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He did some great solves throughout the show," she says.
Erhard became one of the top winners in the show's history when she won $1 million last year by guessing "Tough Workout," but she agrees with Sajak that De Leon, of Daly City, Calif., made one of the best solves ever with only N and E on the board.
"Time-wise and in terms of the puzzle -- I would have to say yes [it was the best] -- he had even less time than I had on mine," she says, adding: "As far as history on the show, the million-dollar wins are the best moments. But for puzzle-solving, then his is the best."
When it comes to how Emil cracked the puzzle, Erhard, of Laguna Niguel, Calif., said she understands his tactics: "I do agree with him when he talked about the letter board and how it helped him, as that helped me with my final puzzle too. I can totally relate to what he said about looking at the Bs. It was pretty crazy."
After Wednesday's episode aired, Autumn says she had friends messaging to ask if she'd cracked Emil's puzzle, and she had to say no. "I'm not offended that they are saying he's the best. It was a great solve. I can admit, I didn't solve it before him!" she says.
As for advice for the new winner, who is doing the rounds of talk shows and will be appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday, Erhard says, "I would have fun with the moment and make the most of it. It is overwhelming for a couple of days after and it could be life-changing if you put the money to good use. [The publicity] kind of died down a week after it aired," she added.
While Erhard won a million by landing on the coveted wedge and making it to the bonus round, De Leon only took home $64,099 in cash and prizes, but "he still walked away with quite a bit of money," she said.
Both big winners have been fans of Wheel of Fortune since they were kids, "My dad and I grew up watching it, it was always a competition between us. Now I watch with my fiance and sometimes I let him solve it without me shouting out even if I've figured it in my head," she admits.
Despite now being a millionaire, Erhard kept her job as an animal pharmaceuticals sales representative and said she hasn't splurged since she won the jackpot. "As much as a million is, it still doesn’t last forever, so we're trying to save as much as possible and make it grow. I don’t want to end up on one of those shows about how the lottery ruined my life.
"We've taken a couple of trips but we are not going out fine dining every night. We're planning our wedding and trying to keep to the budget that we had before," said Erhard, who is having a destination wedding in July. "It is still life changing though!"