It’s been a tough week for Wheel of Fortune fans. After the season 41 premiere was delayed because of football, viewers were disappointed when the second episode featured a contestant who lost big money on a strange puzzle.
During the Tuesday, September 12, installment of the long-running game show, Mississippi’s Mark Henderson made it to the bonus round, where he had the chance to add $50,000 to his winnings after earning $13,990 during regular play.
Henderson chose the “Phrase” category and guessed a handful of letters, but his choices didn’t help him too much. “Well, it’s a phrase,” host Pat Sajak said as the letters R, L, G, N and O. “You have 10 seconds to try to do something with that. Good luck.”
Completely stumped, Henderson yelled out “coloring brown” as time ran out. That’s not really a common phrase, but neither is the one Vanna White ultimately revealed: “whirling around.”
Henderson laughed off his mistake as Sajak, 76, credited him with taking a stab at the puzzle, but viewers were not pleased by the odd solution. “No one says ‘Whirling Around!?’ Another horrible final puzzle in the category of phrase,” tweeted one confused fan, while others slammed the answer as “not a phrase.” Another viewer complained that the puzzle was “impossible” for anyone to solve.
As for the sports-related schedule problems, Sajak apologized to fans who’ll miss out on some Wheel of Fortune episodes because of Monday Night Football. “Because of football and squabbles between stations and carriers, a lot of you won’t be able to see some episodes of Wheel this season,” he tweeted on Monday, September 11. “We’re as sorry as you are, but we are powerless to do anything about it.”
Earlier this year, Sajak announced his plans to retire after season 41, which will wrap up in 2024. “Well, the time has come,” he said in a statement in June. “I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last. It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all.”
While the beloved program debuted in 1975 with Chuck Woolery as the emcee, Sajak has hosted the game show since 1981, meaning he has hosted the series for nearly its entire run.
“It’s an honor to have been in people’s living rooms for that long,” he told Entertainment Tonight in September 2022. “People were out there welcoming us. We’re happy and proud.”