Skip to main content


Big Wheel Keep on Playing

By Jerry Zezima

I am a man of many words. Unfortunately, most of them are incomprehensible when I use them in a sentence. And the rest can’t be repeated in polite company.

This may explain why, even though I’m a writer who is spectacularly unqualified to do anything else, I am lousy at word games. I can’t say the same for my wife, Sue, a retired teacher’s assistant, or our son-in-law Guillaume, a scientist whose first language isn’t even English.

Still, that has not stopped me from applying to be a contestant on the ultimate word game: “Wheel of Fortune.”

Whenever I watch the program, with Pat Sajak hosting and Vanna White turning the letters, I solve my fair share of puzzles, unless they’re in a category like “What are you doing?” (“I’m watching the show — what do you think I’m doing?” is never the right answer) or its equally difficult twin, “What are you wearing?” (“Nothing” is always wrong, too, and can lead to legal trouble.)

But when I watch “Wheel of Fortune” with Sue and Guillaume, the only thing I know for sure is that I would never win a fortune if I were spinning the wheel for real with them.

That’s why I hope they don’t apply to be contestants, too. In fact, they are so good at word games that they have routinely beaten me in “Scrabble,” which I also lost to my daughters, Katie and Lauren, when they were in grade school and to Sue’s late grandmother, who at the time was still alive, giving her an unfair advantage.

Where I really get walloped is in “7 Little Words,” which is in the daily newspaper.

Here are the instructions: “Find the 7 words to match the 7 clues. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of letters in each solution. Each letter combination can be used only once, but all letter combinations will be necessary to complete the puzzle.”

One clue was: “Annual delphinium relative.” It had eight letters.

Answer (which I never would have gotten): “Larkspur.”

“I like playing this game because it keeps my mind sharp,” Sue has told me, being too kind to say that it would do me some good as well.

If she’s stumped, she’ll ask Alexa.

“That’s cheating,” I have said on more than one occasion.

“You cheat at Scrabble,” Sue has responded, again being too kind to say that it doesn’t do me any good. I’m grateful that she also doesn’t mention her grandmother.

If Guillaume — who was born in France and can make puns in two languages, a talent I greatly admire — is around, Sue will ask him for help. If he’s not and Alexa is stumped, too, Sue will call him with a particularly vexing clue, which Guillaume always gets.

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that my beloved wife is seldom desperate enough to ask me for help. And if she is, I always have — you guessed it — no clue.

Nonetheless, I am confident in my chances of getting on “Wheel of Fortune.” To apply, I went to the website and filled out a form with basic information like name (I looked it up on my driver’s license) and address (ditto). Then I uploaded a photo of myself (I hope it doesn’t scare Vanna).

I also recorded a brief video saying why I should be a contestant.

“Here’s your chance to charm us!” it said in the instructions. “Try to follow these tips when creating your video.”

Some of the tips were:

Don’t look like you just rolled out of bed.


Be natural.

Don’t ramble.


If I get on the show, I’ll bring Sue and Guillaume for moral support. I’ll even bring some loose change in case I want to buy a vowel. I just hope Pat doesn’t ask me what I’m wearing.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of five books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures and Every Day Is Saturday, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

Previous Post

Humor Writer of the Month: Julie Schumacher

Meet Julie Schumacher, a prolific author and the first woman to win the Thurber Prize for American Humor. She's our Humor Writer of the Month for July 2021.
Read More
Next Post

Commercially Speaking

While watching television commercials in lockdown I noticed a trend of “cautions.” For instance, the possible side effects of most medical products seem worse than any illness one can experience.

Read More