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Charlie Toft

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Charlie Toft used to win awards for book criticism, but decided that reading was too much work. As a TV writer, his specialty is an encyclopedic and possibly unhealthy knowledge of American Idol.

Wheel of Fortune Contestant Says She Didn’t Cheat!

Caitlin Burke became the latest Web celeb this week, when a clip emerged of her solving a Wheel of Fortune puzzle with only the L in “I’ve got a good feeling about this” showing. She knew only that the puzzle didn’t contain the letter R.

On the surface, such a feat seems impossible, which is why skepticism arose almost instantly about whether she had somehow known the answer ahead of time, or if Wheel of Fortune had helped arrange it as a publicity stunt. Burke responded to those charges by telling Fox411.com, “I would love to know how people think I cheated at that game — like what, I had it written on my hand? How would I even know it would be a puzzle? Or what, I snuck backstage? I don’t even know how that stuff works.”

Burke couldn’t get very specific about how she had come up with the answer, other than to say that getting the L somehow made it click: “I was like ‘Oh, this is what it is.’ I just guessed it and it ended working out just fine!” She did add that an understanding of word structure can help contestants on the show figure things out that aren’t immediately apparent. For example, by picking the letter L first, she eliminated the word “I’ll” as a possibility for the first word in the puzzle, leaving “I’ve” as the only other legitimate option.

For all the attention Burke has received, solving the puzzle so soon may have been a mistake. While there is a risk to continuing to spin the wheel, that’s the only way to earn additional money and prizes, and Burke ended up getting only $900 plus a trip. This would also tend to argue against the idea that she cheated — anyone who knew an answer ahead of time would be much more likely to use that information to build up their bank than to blurt it out at the first opportunity.


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