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Wheel

Jamie Rankin of Lincoln poses for a photo on the set of "Wheel of Fortune," where she won $23,051 in cash and prizes on the Jan. 1 episode.

Some of Jamie Rankin’s family members didn’t understand why her new in-laws gave her an iguana statue as a Christmas gift.

And why they laughed when she opened it.

But it became clear a week later.

Rankin had a chance to win $100,000 during the bonus round on Monday’s episode of TV’s “Wheel of Fortune,” but was unable to solve the puzzle: GIANT IGUANA.

“I’ll never go to the Henry Doorly Zoo reptile section ever again,” Rankin said Tuesday morning.

Then she, too, laughed, but she had good reason to crack jokes.

Despite missing the puzzle, the 32-year-old Lincoln woman still left the syndicated game show hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White a winner, with $23,501 in cash and prizes, including two week-long trips, one to Ottawa, Canada, and another to Aruba.

She was, as you can imagine, ecstatic.

“I’ve never been out of the country,” said Rankin, who plans to use both as honeymoon trips. She married Noa Craft in a surprise wedding just two days before taping her episode on Sept. 25 in Los Angeles. Craft and his parents, Donnie and Cindy, attended the taping.

“Noa asked me ahead of time what figure I was shooting for,” Rankin said. “I said I would be happy with just the $1,000 they give you for appearing on the show. To get $1,000 for one day ... who wouldn’t be happy with that? I just wanted to play.”

And play she did. The West Lincoln Elementary School nurse, mother of three and 25-year “Wheel of Fortune” fan guessed four puzzles correctly, including the last one: I’M HAVING A GOOD RUN.

“That’s when Pat turned to me and said, ‘You certainly are,’” Rankin said.

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Rankin and Craft watched the episode Monday night with more than 70 family and friends. She saw herself choose “living thing” as her bonus round topic and the letters B, D, H and A to go along with the letters R, S, T, L, N and E the show gives a contestant.

“Those aren’t usually the letters I pick when I’m at home watching,” she said. “It all was happening so fast. I had no clue what I was doing out there.”

That left here with _ _ A N T for the first word and _ _ _ A N A for the second. All she could think of was “plant” and “banana,” she said.

“At our watch party, three people shouted out the answer,” she said. “That just added insult to injury.”

Then she laughed again, saying she'll always look at an iguana differently now.

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