April 14, 2014 at 9:03 AM ET
"Wheel of Fortune" can offer up some mind-boggling puzzles. But when an entire phrase is spelled out, contestants generally have no trouble solving — but that wasn't true for player Julian Batts, who some viewers are now calling the "worst" player in the history of the show.
After a series of fortunate spins — high dollar amounts, the $1 million wedge and a trip to London — the Indiana University student had every letter on the board revealed. And he still lost the round.
The solution was "mythological hero Achilles." Seems pretty straightforward, but the pronunciation of "Achilles" stumped the young player, who said "A-chill-us" and got the Buzzer of Denial instead of rousing applause. The round then went to a young woman named Shelby from Texas A&M, who correctly pronounced "Achilles."
"When it comes to names ... even though the letters are up there, because you have to solve it, which is what you did. You have to say it, and (Shelby) said it," host Pat Sajak explained.
"One of the rules of 'Wheel of Fortune' is when a contestant tries to solve a puzzle, they must pronounce it using the generally accepted pronunciation," a spokesperson for the game show told TODAY.
But that wasn't the end of Julian's embarrassing moves. During another puzzle in which he made some amazing spins — including landing both of the half-car wedges — the Indiana U student had all but two letters revealed on the board when he made an unfortunate guess and gave Shelby another win.
One might think the third time would be the charm for him, but he botched yet another puzzle! With the majority of the letters revealed, Julian guessed the "thing" incorrectly. His solution? "On-the-spot dicespin." The actual solution, which Shelby once again landed? "On-the-spot decision."
But it all worked out. With winnings of $11,700, Julian still (somehow) managed to make it to the bonus round at the end.
"I don't think anyone's ever taken a more circuitous route to victory, but the important thing is you're here!" Sajak joked.
TODAY's Natalie Morales guessed Monday, "He's gotta be feeling pretty bad today."
But Julian apparently wasn't feeling that terrible. He told "Good Morning America" that playing "Wheel of Fortune" "was one of the greatest experiences I've accomplished so far."
As for the Achilles mispronunciation boo-boo? "It just kind of hit me like a train, and I really didn't know how to react to it," Julian said. "I didn't feel like I made a mistake, but I feel like I solved the puzzle entirely and all I had to do was read it and I just went for it and did my best."
His best may not have been enough for that particular round, but the college student shouldn't feel too bad. A player named Paul also made a pronunciation error during a game in September and lost a similar chance to win $1 million.
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