By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN BUBBLY SOAP. Those two words were worth $45,000 to Nicole Weisenburger, of Delano, as she correctly solved the bonus round puzzle during the Jan. 27 episode of “Wheel of Fortune.”
Solving that puzzle bumped her prize total to $79,528, including a trip to Costa Rica valued at $6,900.
When asked how it feels to win that kind of loot in front of millions on national TV, Weisenburger responded with one word.
“Surreal,” she said. “It took a couple weeks for it to even sink in that I won, and then it was a month-and-a-half of keeping it a secret. But, it was worth it to see everyone’s reactions when the show aired.”
Her road to the bonus road was not an easy one.
After winning the first two toss-up puzzles VENICE BEACH BOARDWALK and PANEL OF EXPERTS to get on the board with $3,000, Weisenburger watched as both her opponents took turns with the lead.
In the first round, a “Lose a Turn” did her in and an opponent controlled the wheel for the entire second round.
The next round was the prize puzzle and Weisenburger rose to the occasion to answer “DON’T DELAY BOOK YOUR STAY TODAY” to win a trip to Costa Rica.
“I’ve never been out of the country, so it will be great,” she told the Power Trip Morning Show on KFAN Thursday morning.
That prize puzzle win put Weisenburger on top, but not by much.
“I completely blanked on the next toss up,” she said. “I remember thinking I was watching it on TV instead of playing the game.”
It started to look like Weisenburger would need to be content with second place as an opponent landed on the $5,000 spot twice on the way to solving “LETTER OF ACCEPTANCE.”
But, there was time for one more puzzle.
Apparently, the $5,000 spot was still hot because host Pat Sajak’s final spin landed on it, which made vowels worth a total of $6,000 each for the final puzzle.
“To be honest, I didn’t realize the meaning of that at the time,” Weisenburger said. “Now I realize that if Pat spun anything other than $5,000 for the final spin, I would have had no chance. Then I figured out ‘REBOOTING THE COMPUTER’ and was just hoping that my turn would come so I could guess a ‘B’ and solve. I didn’t even know I took first place until Pat was like ‘Our big winner, Nicole.’”
And, that sent Weisenburger to the bonus round.
With only an L and S on the board, Weisenburger picked M, C, D, and A.
“When the puzzle first showed up, my initial instinct was ‘Family Size,’ even though I realize now I would’ve seen an E if that was the case.’ So, that’s why I guessed an M. The rest of my letters were just random. I was just trying to guess semi-popular letters. Thank goodness I at least got the A.”
Judging by Sajak’s reaction when only that A joined the board, Weisenburger did not think she had a chance.
“I saw B on the unused letter board and I just thought ‘double . . . bubble . . . bubbly? Bubbly soap?’ and sure enough (I was right). I’m glad I guessed an M because that ruled out ‘family’ for the first word. Otherwise I would’ve been stuck on ‘family,’ and wouldn’t had made the jump to the Bs.”
What followed next was a bit of shock mixed with pandemonium.
“I forgot that when you win, your family gets to run on stage,” Weisenburger said. “I was genuinely surprised when I saw my parents and sister running at me.”
Then, she had the task of not revealing what she had won.
“It was hard keeping a poker face for so long when people were peppering us with questions for a month and a half, but it was so worth it to see their reactions when the show aired,” Weisenburger said.
Those reactions came pouring in.
“My phone was going crazy during the show,” Weisenburger said. “I had 49 texts and 130-plus Facebook notifications just during that half hour that the show was on and #bubblysoap was even trending on Twitter for a little bit. So crazy. I hardly got any work done today at work because I had so many visitors and emails and phone calls. It’s been fun to soak up my 15 minutes of fame.”