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There has been some amazing solves over the years on Wheel of Fortune, but both viewers and host Pat Sajak agreed that Wednesday night’s episode featured the most impressive ever.
Emil De Leon, 25, of Daly City, Calif., correctly guessed the 12-letter phrase “New Baby Buggy” with only the letters N and E on the board, resulting in what Sajak called on Twitter “the most amazing solve in my 30+ years on the show.”
Tonight’s “Wheel of Fortune” features most amazing solve in my 30+ years on the show. No kidding.
— Pat Sajak (@patsajak) March 19, 2014
Still in shock over his success, De Leon told The Hollywood Reporter: “I am overwhelmed, this is surreal. I can’t look at the Internet without seeing my face all over it.”
There have been some high-profile winners in the past, such as last year’s Autumn Erhard, who won $1 million for guessing “tough workout,” but De Leon believes that his is the best.
“I’ve watched both of the million-dollar winners but — and I don’t want to put myself on a high horse — I don’t know if anyone else could have done that as well as I did,” he said.
“I have been watching Wheel of Fortune since I can remember. My parents would just sit me in front of the TV to watch it so I’ve been prepping my whole life. The first letters I ever learned were R, S, T, L, N, E, which are the main letters in Wheel of Fortune,” he said, but this was the first time he had actually been on a game show.
“I am not very good at talking, I am such an introvert. I stutter a lot, but when it came to the puzzle I was in the zone and it got rid of my stutter,” said the nursing student.
Despite his massive achievement, De Leon only walked away with $63,099 in cash and prizes compared to the fortune won by those who landed on the wedge and made it to the bonus round, but he doesn’t care. “I am living the dream right now and have no regrets.”
De Leon — who prepped by playing the Wheel of Fortune video game, on Twitter and the app — went on to reveal how he figured out the puzzle with so little to go on. “Only the N and the E popped up, so I needed to get more letters, in my head I already chose H, M, D, O — which are my go-to letters for the bonus round when I play the video game.
“The first word was easy as there is pretty much nothing that can go there except ‘new’. Then I just kept on working with the second word — I used a used letter board, the first letter there was B, so I worked off that. New Baby just sounds right — it flows,” he explained.
Having just studied pediatrics for his nursing exams, De Leon had “babies on my mind” and “I just thought, ‘What do you find with a new baby?’ and came up with buggy.
Although it only aired on Wednesday, De Leon filmed his game-winning episode on Jan. 17 and said, “That was a very long two months that I had to keep quiet. My parents are very talkative so I was worried!”
He now says he will spend his prize money on paying off school fees, and try and fit in the trip to Cabo, Mexico, that he won before heading back for a registered nursing course.
First, however, De Leon will be back on TV when he appears on Friday’s Today and Monday’s episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he can be seen dancing excitedly onto the stage to share his secrets with Ellen and co-host Jason Bateman.
On Today, De Leon weighed in on conspiracy theorists who say there’s something fishy behind his “amazing solve.”
“The people that know me, they know my skills as a puzzle solver,” he said. “I’ve been playing online, on Twitter, on the video games, the app, and I just know that my skills prove that everything is real. This is me. My brain has been working.
Watch De Leon’s amazing reaction to his win below:
Hilary Lewis contributed to this report.
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