Wheel of Fortune History Wiki

Over its history, Wheel of Fortune has used a great variety of categories for its puzzles. The Shopper's Bazaar pilot used three (Person, Place, and Thing), with the 1974 pilots adding at least Fictional Character; an old version of the show's website said that Wheel had six when it debuted, while the first board game uses the aforementioned four plus Event, Landmark, Phrase, and Title. The First Edition game's lack of plural forms would suggest that they were not used in the earliest days, although Things and People were used in the Second Edition (albeit four times in total, suggesting that plural forms had only just been introduced).

Current Categories

  • Around the House: Introduced on September 6, 1999 as a more specific subset of Thing, focusing on things within or close to a household. For its first season of use, its category strip had a crayon drawing of a house.
  • Before & After: Introduced on February 27, 1989. Consists of two phrases, names, etc. combined by a word that ends the first and starts the second (e.g., WHEEL OF FORTUNE COOKIE, which combines "Wheel of Fortune" and "fortune cookie"). Perhaps to make the answer structure more obvious, most Before & After puzzles in the late 2000s have the connecting word on its own line if possible.
    • There are three known instances of the common term being two words instead of one: KISS AND MAKE UP A STORY on November 12, 2010; A FLY ON THE WALL STREET JOURNAL on May 1, 2013; and DRESSED TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD on February 1, 2016.
    • Some international versions of Wheel have had their own takes on this category. For example, Germany's version of Before & After was "2 in 1": regular categories making up each of the two phrases were given to the players and eventually shown to the home audience, starting with the one making up the first part of the puzzle; the linking word was distinguished by colored boxes, blue when a letter in that word was concealed and orange when revealed. The United Kingdom's version of Wheel had "The Common Word" where, unlike most other versions of the show, the linking word was said twice whenever a puzzle was solved (for instance, if the puzzle was TEA PARTY HAT, the contestant solved the puzzle as "TEA PARTY; PARTY HAT.").
  • Best Seller(s): The answer is the name of a famous book or books. Introduced on September 8, 2004 (curiously, in Round 5) and very rarely used. Although the plural form is on the official category list, it has never been used.
  • Character(s): Specific names or generic types of characters from fiction, debuting on August 28, 1974 (specifically, the first Edd Byrnes pilot) as Fictional Character(s). The category was renamed on January 22, 2013 to make it more obvious that it includes types of characters and not just names; it had last appeared under its original name on December 5, 2012, although the old name was present on February 20, 2013 due to it being taped out of order. Following the name change, the category strip was in the wrong font for nearly two years, not being corrected until the start of Season 33 in September 2015.
  • Classic TV: Introduced on September 5, 1996. Until September 2000, it had a drawing of a console TV on its category strip. The category is used for titles, quotations, characters, song lyrics, or events that relate to television history in some fashion. Any form of content aired on television is applicable to the category: live-action scripted shows, unscripted shows (e.g., game shows), TV movies, cartoons, and even commercials. It is rarely used nowadays, with only five appearances since 2008.
  • College Life: Introduced on October 24, 2005 and used only during College Weeks, resulting in extremely sporadic usage. The category features things or events applicable to college.
  • Event(s): An activity or occurrence of some kind, sometimes with a gerund or participle phrase. In the 2000s, this category was extended to include nearly any instance of a word or phrase ending in -ING, which was countered somewhat with the introduction of What Are You Doing? Despite the category's long life, there is no record of the plural form being used prior to 1995.
  • Family: Introduced on December 25, 1989, the first show of a nighttime Family Week. The puzzle is the name of two or more famous people who are closely related (e.g. DICK & JERRY VAN DYKE), or rarely, the name of a well-known family (e.g., THE NEVILLE BROTHERS).
  • Fun & Games: Introduced on September 6, 2004, the category may encompass any term relating to sports, games (including video games), or other similar recreational activities. The first category to be introduced in a Toss-Up.
  • Food & Drink: Introduced on September 10, 2003 as On the Menu, and renamed on September 11, 2006 (the Season 24 premiere), most likely to be all-inclusive for items that would not necessarily be found on a restaurant menu. Some food-and drink-related puzzles in Seasons 21-23 were categorized as Thing, Around the House, or In the Kitchen, while others were shoehorned into On the Menu (most notably the bonus puzzle BIG GULP on October 25, 2005, on which Pat commented). However, contestant auditions continued to use On the Menu until at least early 2010.
  • Headline: Introduced on September 3, 1996, and very rarely used to the point of disappearing entirely between September 29, 2011 and September 23, 2013. Until September 2000, its category strip had a drawing of a rolled-up newspaper. In most, and likely all cases, the puzzles appear to be derived from actual newspaper or news article headlines. Since 2018, all Headline puzzles to date have involved either a recent sporting event victory (e.g., CHICAGO CUBS WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!) or a recent astronomical event (e.g., NORTH AMERICAN SOLAR ECLIPSE).
  • Husband & Wife: Introduced on November 27, 1989, although Pat Sajak's comments suggest it had been used earlier; if this was the case, either the puzzles were discarded or it actually debuted very late in Season 6. Puzzles in this category are the names of two famous people who are or were married to each other; these answers are usually contemporary, but on rare occasions may refer to a historical couple (and at least one, FRED & ETHEL MERTZ on November 10, 1995, was a fictional couple). Despite the show having already begun to use ampersands by Season 7, this category continued to spell out AND until at least the mid-1990s, and reverted permanently to doing so from 2012-2019.
  • In the Kitchen: Introduced on November 8, 2005 as a self-explanatory subset of Around the House. Between November 2010 and September 2017, for no discernible reason, all but one appearance of the category was either as a Speed-Up or Toss-Up.
  • Landmark(s): Used for specific buildings, monuments, natural or artificial features, etc. There is no record of the plural form being used before April 28, 2000, and no others until April 29, 2014.
  • Living Thing(s): Introduced on March 14, 2001 as a subset of Thing; however, the Australian version has used this category since the early 1990s. The category includes animals, plants, etc.
  • Movie Quote and TV Quote: Subsets of Quotation. Debuted on September 29 and October 3, 2011, respectively, although no mention was made on either episode of these being new categories. The official category list indicates that these categories may be followed by a bonus question asking for the movie or TV show which provided the quote, although this has only happened once (on November 8, 2011).
  • Occupation(s): Known to have debuted sometime between mid-1975 and March 27, 1979. Despite its longevity, there is no record of the plural form being used before the 21st century.
  • On the Map: Introduced on April 14, 1999 as a more specific subset of Place. Includes cities, countries, and any other specific named geographical feature.
  • Person and People: Until the introduction of Proper Name in Season 14, proper names of famous people were included in this category. Previously, contestants were reminded by the host that "'Person/People' does not always mean 'proper name(s)'", and whether the reminder was used denoted whether it was a proper name (if used, it wasn't; if omitted, it was). Starting around Season 6, some puzzles that were proper names would include a descriptive phrase (e.g. PEANUTS CARTOONIST CHARLES SCHULZ), which has occasionally continued into the present day with Proper Name.
  • Phrase(s): Possibly the most frequent category, although one recollection claims it was not present when the show debuted. The plural form is listed on the show's official category list, but its only confirmed use is sometime in Season 17; the category list's sample puzzle YOU WASH I'LL DRY suggests that Phrases is any two (or more) related phrases separated by a comma or otherwise used consecutively. At least one puzzle in the 2010s (KNOCK KNOCK WHO'S THERE? on November 8, 2013) met the criterion for Phrases, but was categorized as Quotation instead.
  • Place(s): Until the introduction of On the Map, specific geographical locations were included in this category; it now includes only generic places. Since the retirement of Fictional Place, fictional locations are now categorized as Place as well.
  • Proper Name(s): Introduced on September 17, 1996, although no mention was made of it being a new category. Initially, the puzzle was used solely for the names of famous people, sometimes with a descriptive word or phrase added. Since the 21st century, it has also been used for names of sports teams, colleges, or (far more rarely) businesses and institutions.
  • Quotation: Known to have debuted sometime between mid-1975 and January 18, 1978. The puzzle is an excerpt from a famous work, typically from literature or poetry. Prior to the creations of Song Lyrics, Movie Quote, and TV Quote, Quotation also applied to puzzles that would now be in those categories instead.
  • Rhyme Time: Introduced on November 12, 1998. The puzzle is a phrase with rhyming words in it (e.g. WINE AND DINE), a list of thematically similar things whose names rhyme, or far less commonly, a single word with rhyming syllables such as HODGEPODGE.
  • Same Letter: Introduced on September 15, 2010. The puzzle in this category is a phrase with each word beginning with the same consonant. Occasionally, ampersands are used. The category has only been used as a Toss-Up four times, all four in the season of its introduction, and it was not used during the Las Vegas episodes taped in Season 31 despite several puzzles at the sessions meeting the criterion.
    • Starting in Season 32, the category now awards a $1,000 bonus for calling the Same Letter. Should the Same Letter be called on a Mystery Wedge, said bonus is treated independently of the per-letter amount (meaning it is not forfeited if the wedge is flipped and contains $10,000; however, this was not the case on March 29, 2021, though this was likely an oversight). This also means that the Same Letter is never a vowel, which curiously was also true before the "bonus" rule was created; despite this, the cited example on the official category list is ALL-AMERICAN ATHLETE.
  • Same Name: Introduced on September 6, 1988. This puzzle includes two names, phrases, etc. that end in the same word (e.g., ARETHA & BENJAMIN FRANKLIN or SEWING & SLOT MACHINE). From about 1992-96, it sometimes used three "names" (e.g., BERMUDA ELECTRICAL & SHORT SHORTS).
    • Originally, AND was spelled out, but after nearly every contestant called N-D-A first, the word was replaced by an ampersand on July 18, 1989, which carried over to nighttime that September. From around Season 30, the category began spelling out AND again with increasing frequency (although there were a few isolated instances of this for nearly a decade prior), until it switched back to exclusively using ampersands in late Season 35.
  • Show Biz: Introduced on September 9, 1996. Puzzles in this category pertain to the entertainment industry in some way. Of the few categories to use unique wipes in the 1990s, this was the only one to have its wipe change: the first wipe was a pair of crossed spotlights, which was changed in Season 16 to a golden star. As with the other category-specific wipes, the latter was removed in September 2000.
  • Song/Artist: Originally Artist/Song (e.g., BARBRA STREISAND'S PEOPLE), and known to have been used since at least April 26, 1993. The Song/Artist variant (e.g., BORN TO RUN BY BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN) debuted by April 30, 1996, although the show alternated between the two until March 3, 2008 before settling on Song/Artist.
  • Song Lyrics: Introduced on February 21, 2001 as a self-explanatory subset of Quotation. Often used interchangably with Song Title.
  • Star & Role: Introduced on July 17, 1989 (Bob Goen's first daytime episode) as Person/Fictional Character, the puzzle lists an actor or actress and a character he or she is known for portraying, separated by the word AS. At least twice, it has been used for celebrity voice-acting roles. Its current status is unknown, as its last appearance to date was on May 29, 2017.
    • The original name was only used for three months, with the rename on October 16. It was very likely renamed to make it inclusive for actors portraying real-life people, as the October 4 nighttime puzzle GEORGE C SCOTT AS PATTON was categorized as People. Indeed, the nighttime show only used the original name once, on October 6. Person/Fictional Character has the distinction of being the only category besides Fictional Character itself to use two rows of the 1983-95 category chyrons.
    • Stars & Roles has been used at least three times: May 27, 2004; February 8, 2005; and October 17, 2005.
  • Thing(s): Possibly the category that has been split up the most. Around the House, Food & Drink, In the Kitchen, Living Thing, and What Are You Wearing? are all unarguable subsets.
  • Title(s): Believed to have been in use since 1975; puzzles in this category are the names of a famous work. Three specific subsets (Movie Title, Song Title, and TV Title) were introduced in Season 23 ("TV" on September 12, "Movie" on September 19, "Song" on October 13). As a result, Title itself has become increasingly sporadic, getting used mainly for works of literature that would not necessarily fit under Best Seller, or for works or titles that exist in more than one medium. In more recent years, it is also used for titles of series that are exclusive to streaming services, as opposed to TV Title (e.g., THE MANDALORIAN).
    • Of all the plural categories, Titles is probably the least used besides Phrases; there are only three known instances of Titles, and one of TV Titles.
  • Title/Author: The name of a famous book or other literary work and its author, separated with the word BY. It was introduced sometime in 1991 as Book/Author, but renamed apparently in Season 9 (likely to make it applicable to literary works that are not books). Surprisingly, it has been pluralized at least once (Title/Authors, on September 26, 1995). Similarly to Song/Artist, this was sometimes inverted as Author/Title (with the author's name taking the possessive form) from March 4, 1996 through February 25, 2008; since then, only Title/Author has been used, with two exceptions on June 6, 2012 and October 21, 2013. In both this and Song/Artist, Pat reads the slash in the category name as "and".
  • What Are You Doing?: Introduced on September 12, 2007 and usually guarantees that an -ING ending will be somewhere in the answer, generally in the first word. There are seven instances where an -ING has not appeared: three puzzles in mid-Season 27, one in Season 29, and three in Season 30, the last of which was a bonus puzzle (THE LIMBO).
  • What Are You Wearing?: Introduced on September 14, 2017. The puzzle can be used for articles of clothing, accessories, makeup, or other items that can be worn, including fashion brand names (though the latter has yet to appear). It may also include facial expressions, although even this has only been used once.

"Decade" Categories

Introduced in Season 10, and definitely by October 26, 1992, these puzzles included things and events related to the decade in question. For about their first season of use, they were typically followed by a $1,000 trivia question (asked by Charlie) related to the decade in question. These are given their own section due to their more complex history:

  • The oldest known decade to be used is The Twenties, with known uses on December 28, 1992, April 9, 1993, and October 18, 1994.
  • Three of the episodes during Season 17's Retro Week (week of December 27, 1999) appended a "decade" category to an existing category.
  • The decades were written out as words instead of numbers (e.g., The Eighties) until September 1995, when the category strips changed. The apostrophe was removed at the beginning of Season 21.
  • The 50's was last used on April 30, 1996.
  • The 60's was last used on May 10, 2001, but made a one-time return on April 6, 2011 as part of a special "recycled puzzles" episode in honor of Going Green Week.
  • The 90's was actually used within the 1990s itself three times, but did not appear between 1999 and 2001.
  • The last use of a "decade" category for many years was a use of The 90's November 8, 2006, outside the aforementioned "recycled puzzles" episode.
  • The line returned in Season 30, once again with apostrophes: The 90's on September 18, 2012, The 80's on September 20, and The 70's on October 12. Their first use in Season 31 did not come until December 18, when The 80's was used in Round 4. Since their reinstatement, the puzzles have been largely about media popular in the decade, with some using the format of Star & Role or Song/Artist.
  • In Season 32, the only use of a "decades" category was a single appearance of The 90's on February 19, 2015. They also did not appear at all in Seasons 33 or 34, but The 80's returned in Season 35, both independently and attached to existing categories (e.g. "80's Song Lyrics").
  • The 80's was used once in Season 37, and both it and The 90's have been used in Season 38.
  • Celebrity Wheel of Fortune in 2021 reinstated the trend of appending decades to existing categories (usually Song Lyrics or Movie Title), but this did not return to the regular series.
  • The 2000's has never been used, despite the decade having passed and the aforementioned presence of The Nineties in the 1990s.

Video Game Categories

  • The Sharedata games of the 1980s used Group.
  • The first three NES games abbreviated Fictional Character(s) as Fiction Person.
  • The box of GameTek's First, Second & Third Editions reissue in 1992 listed Song Title (predating the show by well over a decade), Employement [sic] (likely Occupation), and Two of the Same (an unknown category that is clearly not Same Name, as that is also listed on the box).
  • The two PlayStation games (1998 and 2000) contain, but never use, Person/Title, Foreign Word, and Slang.
  • Around 2002, the show's online game used Chain Reaction, somewhat based on the Bob Stewart series of the same name. Puzzles used four terms, one on each line, and the terms connected with the one above and/or below (e.g., CORDLESS TELEPHONE LINE SEGMENT).
  • The 2007 Stern pinball machine uses Pinball Term (e.g., SCORING A JACKPOT IN MULTIBALL).
  • Most games from 2009 onward use Classic Movies, a more specific version of Movie Title. They also use Book Title for Best Seller, and inconsistently refer to TV Title as TV Show Title.
  • The 2010 Raw Thrills arcade game uses Classic TV Song, a hybrid of Classic TV and Song Lyrics (e.g., WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME). The game's audio files also include announcements for Classic Movies, Classic Rock (possibly a renaming of Rock On!, given that it is used as such in the 2017 Ubisoft game), and Persons, though none of these are used in-game. It also includes one for TV Show Title, despite all such puzzles in-game being categorized as the proper TV Title. As a result, when a TV Title puzzle appears, no category announcement is played.
  • Some other video game versions, including the original Facebook game, also use Family for the names of individual family members (e.g. BROTHER & SISTER) instead of the way the category is used on the actual show.
  • The 2012 THQ games contain several unused audio files of Pat announcing categories not used in the game, including Classic Rock and Where Are We Going? The latter is known to be on the official category list that is given to contestants, defined as "Any place, location, or destination one might visit"; how it would differ from Place is unknown, especially since the given examples (NASSAU IN THE BAHAMAS and THE CANADIAN ROCKIES) do not differ from Place, On the Map, or Landmark.

Retired Categories

  • Composer/Song: Used only once, in Round 3 on March 27, 1996; the answer was RAVEL'S BOLERO. There are two known examples of the concept being used beforehand: IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS on December 29, 1989 and HANDEL'S MESSIAH in April 1993, respectively categorized as Thing (although at the time, Person/Title would have been more logical) and Artist/Song.
  • Fictional Family: Introduced on November 30, 2007 as a subset of Fictional Character and Family. Last used March 23, 2012, it was not officially retired until January 2013 when it was combined back into the then newly-renamed Character(s). The audio files in the 2012 THQ games include one for Fictional Families, which was never used on the actual show.
  • Fictional Place: A subset of Place, known to have been used since at least May 30, 1995, although one recollection claims that it was in use since at least 1985. Last used September 21, 2012, it was not officially retired until January 2013, at which point it was officially merged back into Place. Despite its longevity, it was very rarely used, and often appeared no more than two or three times per season.
  • Foreign Word(s) and Foreign Phrase: Introduced sometime around mid-Season 9 (definitely by March 4, 1992). It is not known why the former had a plural form. Foreign Phrase made its last appearance on September 14, 1992. After the puzzle (MAZEL TOV) was solved, Pat stated that there are several acceptable Anglicized pronunciations of that word, giving a likely explanation for the category's short life. Another likely explanation is that there are not very many non-English terms with which the average contestant would be familiar.
  • Nickname: Known to have debuted sometime between mid-1975 and May 31, 1979, remaining through at least January 12, 1998 (although it appeared during an early-2002 audition in Chicago where the puzzle was AIR JORDAN). Due to its extremely sporadic appearances, with no known uses circulating between 1981 and 1988, Nickname has proven to be the show's most elusive category in terms of uses and longevity.
  • People: Similarly to Show Biz, the answers were subjects that could be found in People magazine. The category strip used the magazine's logo. Used from October 15-November 23, 2007, with the "regular" People not used to avoid confusion (although Person was retained).
  • Person/Title: Known to have been used since at least August 24, 1989 and as late as October 26, 1995. A subset of Title, the puzzle listed an actor or actress and an associated work, separated by the word IN (or sometimes STARS IN or STARRING IN). Its last appearance was on November 9, 1995, although puzzles in this format have since been categorized as Show Biz
  • Rock On!: Introduced on October 25, 2005. Puzzles were themed to rock music in some way, most often referencing a rock act and song and sometimes taking the form of Song/Artist or Artist/Song. The category has only two appearances as a Toss-Up: January 6, 2006 and October 1, 2009. Charlie usually introduced the category in a deep "rock DJ" voice, except for April 25, 2006 (unknown reason) and October 5, 2009 (Pat deliberately introduced it in a deadpan voice, likely as a call-back to Charlie missing his cue to do so on the 1st). On its last two appearances (December 3, 2010 and February 9, 2011), Charlie did announce the category as usual, but it was overdubbed with Pat, as part of the overdubbing done on episodes originally announced by Charlie that aired after his death. The category was most likely retired in his honor, although it is known to still be on the official list.
  • Show/Song: Used on March 15, 1996, and again on May 30 as Song/Show. It also appears in the latter form on the 1997 Nintendo 64 game.
  • Slang: Introduced on September 7, 1992 and used until June 19, 1995. Many of its puzzles were archaic or, in some cases, outright-fabricated terms (such as OFF THE BEAM on March 6, 1995). This category may have been retired due to a gradual shift away from shorter main-game puzzles and/or an attempt to modernize the show throughout the 1990s.

"Bonus" Categories

From 1990-2008, the show had categories which offered the contestant a bonus for answering a question related to the puzzle. Initially worth $500 ($250 on daytime), they increased to $1,000 in November 1995, $2,000 in Season 14, and $3,000 in Season 17. The bonus question was indicated by a six-tone chime previously used on the 1987-88 revival of High Rollers.

Originally, if the contestant who solved the puzzle did not give a correct response to the "bonus" answer, it was offered to the next contestant(s) in line until someone gave a correct answer or until all three contestants had guessed. If the correct response was provided, it appeared on the chyron and flashed; otherwise, it appeared without flashing. The only exceptions to this were Megaword and $1,000 Slogan. Starting on November 22, 1995, all of the other "bonus" categories also offered the question only to the contestant who solved.

From 1990-92, a light saxophone "Tah-Dah" sting was used as the cue if a contestant gave the right answer. It was replaced by the puzzle-solve at the start of Season 10, and then by its own cues in 1997. This line of categories was phased out gradually over the first decade of the 21st century, with Where Are We? being the last to retire in November 2008. Season 28 brought back the line with What's That Song?, but it was rarely used; it also did not use the chimes or display the correct response on the chyron.

Another notable feature of some of the "bonus" categories is that, in those which used three "segmented" answers (e.g., the three answers in a Fill In the Blank or the three "clues" in a Where Are We? puzzle), "segments" which required two lines were normally indicated by a hanging indent if such an arrangement could fit on the board.

Starting in Season 10, the "regular" categories occasionally came with trivia questions pertaining to the answer, available only to the contestant who solved the puzzle. Until the end of Season 13, such questions were indicated by four low-pitched beeps and asked by Charlie; after this, they also used the High Rollers chimes and were asked by Pat. Such questions last appeared on May 23, 2005 with the Quotation I'LL GET YOU MY PRETTY AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO!, but returned on November 8, 2011 with the same puzzle (now Movie Quote) for what turned out to be a one-time use. Although these questions were originally valued at $1,000, they increased to $2,000 in Season 14 and then $3,000 in Season 17 when the "bonus" categories did.

Also used as bonuses for regular categories were the Red-Letter Puzzles (1993-95) and Puzzler (1998-2000).

Until at least 2010, second-level contestant auditions used at least Who Is It? and Slogan, albeit without the question. Despite this, the official category list included several of these until early Season 31.

  • Clue: The puzzle described a specific object (in a similar style to clues seen on sister program Jeopardy!), with the bonus awarded for identifying the object. Apparently introduced in October 1990, last used on May 13, 2004. Until the introduction of Who Is It? and Where Are We?, Clue puzzles sometimes described people, fictional characters, or places as well.
    • Two incidents in Season 21 may have been reasons behind Clue's retirement: on March 15, 2004, a contestant managed to make six incorrect guesses on what the puzzle A ROMAN GOD OR THE PLANET NEAREST THE SUN described (Mercury), and on April 1, a contestant was ruled incorrect for mispronouncing the third word of the completely-revealed puzzle OVERHAND SQUARE & SHEEPSHANK ARE TYPES (knots).
  • Fill In the Blank: Debuted in Season 10, on November 18, 1992. Fill In the Blank is unique in that the name actually referred to two different categories:
    • Initially, Fill In the Blank was a phrase with a word or words missing from either the middle or end (indicated by a question mark), and the contestant received a bonus for providing the exact missing portion (e.g., SHOULD AULD ? BE FORGOT; the missing word is "acquaintance"). Prior to this being made its own category, two Clue puzzles in early Season 10 used the same concept.
    • Sometime around January 1994, the "three question marks" Fill In the Blank was introduced. This one was a word puzzle similar to Tribond, where the answer was three (sometimes four) phrases, names, etc. that had a missing common word, almost always at the beginning (e.g., ? STATION ? WAGON ? WOMAN ? DOG; the missing word is "police"). It is known to have been retired sometime between May 29, 2000 and September 2002, although it appears that the category solely used the question marks at the beginning from about 1998 onward. This concept was also used at least once, without question marks, on a Clue puzzle in 1993 (BOOK CHEESE RIBBON, the missing word being "blue").
    • Interestingly, both versions of Fill In the Blank were used interchangably until about November 4, 1994, the last time the "old" version was used. The "old" version was likely retired due to its similarty to Next Line Please.
    • For no particular reason, both versions were simply called "Blank" on the category strips until sometime between February 15 and May 24, 1995, although the Australian version used "Blank" through the end of its original run in 2006. Likely around the same time, the puzzles had the question marks already revealed at the outset, as opposed to Vanna turning them like any other punctuation on the trilon board.
  • Fill In the Number: A phrase with a missing number in it, indicated by number signs; debuted on April 7, 1998, last appeared April 28, 2004. There are at least two known instances of puzzles in this category using two numbers, one of which was its last appearance, although it is not known whether either instance was categorized as Fill In the Numbers.
    • It should be noted that with both Fill In the Blank and Fill In the Number, the word "in" is considered an adverb and is therefore acceptable to capitalize.
  • Megaword: An eight- to thirteen-letter word, with the bonus given for using the word in a sentence (at which point the word would be displayed on the chyron). Debuted on September 20, 1994 and last seen April 7, 1995, with a total of 34 appearances. Unlike the other "bonus" categories in use at the time, the bonus was offered solely to the contestant who solved.
    • As there was no limit on where in the game it could be used, Megaword often saw use in Rounds 2 and 3, where one-word puzzles were otherwise almost never used. Likewise, it also saw frequent use in the Speed-Up, a place where "bonus" categories were rarely used otherwise.
    • Megaword was likely retired for several reasons. The most obvious was Pat's clear dislike for the category, as he would make sarcastic remarks about it on nearly every appearance (sometimes, even on episodes where it was not used), and even Vanna and Charlie are known to have made jokes at the category's expense. Another likely reason is the unusually high difficulty – many Megaword puzzles took a very long time to play due to their lack of common letters. The most notorious example of this is OXIDIZED on March 15, 1995, which took 11 turns before any letters were revealed and another 12 before it was solved, with the overall round lasting 5 minutes and 40 seconds. Other times, it was obvious that players were unfamiliar with the word, leading to incorrect answers with only vowels remaining or, in at least one case (PRISTINELY on December 16, 1994), the entire answer revealed.
    • Further, the judging on sentences did not appear to hold much weight on the word being used in a proper context, with only one sentence ("The contestants did not know what the word PROLIFERATION meant" on December 9, 1994) not being accepted. There are only three instances of contestants not attempting to provide a sentence: HAPHAZARDLY on September 27, 1994, FLAMBOYANTLY on October 19, 1994, and COPACETIC on December 22, 1994.
    • Megaword is also one of the few categories to appear in some official form after its retirement: the 1996 Wheel day-by-day calendar uses a Megaword puzzle of LABYRINTH on February 10.
    • On April 30, 2014, contestant Trent mentioned the category in his interview, with Pat also mentioning his dislike of the category.
  • Next Line Please: An incomplete phrase or quotation, which the contestant received a bonus for completing. Unlike the "old-style" Fill In the Blank, puzzles did not indicate the end of the incomplete phrase with a question mark. Debuted on December 9, 1994 and was last used April 17, 2008.
  • Slogan: Debuted on October 6, 1995 as $1,000 Slogan, and renamed the following September when the bonus value increased. The puzzle was the slogan of a product or company, and the bonus question involved identifying the associated company.
    • Unlike the other categories in use at the time, only the contestant who solved got a chance at the bonus.
    • At least seven Slogan puzzles did not use the bonus question due to the product name being in the answer: LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR STATE FARM IS THERE on November 18, 1999; HEY CULLIGAN MAN on February 3, 2000; NOTHING BEATS A GREAT PAIR OF L'EGGS on March 9, 2000; YOU'RE IN GOOD HANDS WITH ALLSTATE during the week of September 25, 2000; THE BEST PART OF WAKIN' UP IS FOLGERS IN YOUR CUP on October 12, 2000; L'EGGO MY EGGO on January 21, 2004; CHOOSY MOMS CHOOSE JIF on May 3, 2004; and CALGON TAKE ME AWAY on March 21, 2005. The second was a Puzzler round followed by SOFT WATER; while the latter three were also Toss-Ups, further explaining the lack of bonus question. Also, the Toss-Up Slogan puzzle A DIAMOND IS FOREVER on February 24, 2005 did not use the question, despite the product name (De Beers) not being in the answer.
    • It is likely that at least some companies offered to have their products' slogans used as puzzles, leading to some unusually short answers. While Slogan last appeared on February 19, 2008, it was likely retired after its next-to-last aired appearance (January 30) where the completely-revealed puzzle EAT FRESH was solved "Subway, eat fresh" and (after a stopdown) ruled correct for both the puzzle answer and identification of the product. The 2009 PS3 game, 2017 Ubisoft game, and Wheelmobile events still use the category, as did the original (2011) Facebook game, albeit without the bonus questions.
    • On May 26, 2011, the Wendy's sweepstakes puzzle was the chain's slogan, QUALITY IS OUR RECIPE. However, these puzzles did not use categories.
    • Puzzles (complete with category strips) used in a promo for Beaches Resort Week from March 10-14, 2014 include the Slogan ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE.
  • What Are We Making?: The puzzle listed ingredients to a common food dish, which was then identified for the bonus. It was used only once, on October 23, 2007; the puzzle was HERSHEY BAR GRAHAM CRACKER GOOEY ROASTED MARSHMALLOW, which the contestant correctly identified as the ingredients for S'mores. Not counting the intentional one-shots listed below, this is the third known category to have been used only once. It is likely that this category was only used once due to the gradual phasing-out of the "bonus" categories in 2008. Another likely factor in its one-time use is the fact that this answer was the longest overall puzzle (in terms of overall letter count, but not in terms of spaces used) in the show's history.
  • What's That Song?: The puzzle was a song lyric, with the bonus awarded for identifying the song's title. Introduced on September 16, 2010 and last used October 31, 2011, it was only used six times (four in Season 28, two in Season 29) despite being present for over a year.
  • Where Are We?: The puzzle gave three short clues to a specific place. However, some in Seasons 11 and 12 used four clues. With only a couple exceptions, the category downgraded to just one clue in June 1997; it reverted to three-clue answers in October 2002. Introduced in Season 11, last used November 28, 2008.
  • Who Is It?/Who Are They?: The puzzle gave a clue to a specific person or people, or occasionally, fictional character(s). Debuting September 27, 1995 and last used April 23, 2008 (the plural version was used once on May 4, 1998 and then had scant appearances between Seasons 22-24). This was still used at second-level auditions as late as 2010, albeit without the question.
    • Until the end of Season 13, Who Is It? used three "clues" like Where Are We? did. The category's one-clue format debuted on September 10, 1996, although one on December 17, 1996 used three.
  • Who Said It?: Debuted September 15, 1995. Identical to Quotation, but with a bonus for identifying the person or character most associated with the quotation. This is different from the bonus question associated with some Quotation puzzles in the early-to-mid 1990s, in which Charlie or Pat would ask for the work that provided the quotation. Last used October 27, 2006.

Intentional One-Shots

Besides the three categories listed above that were only used once, the show has used several unique categories:

  • The first Retro Week (week of December 27, 1999) created three unique categories by appending decades to existing categories: 70's Song/Artists [sic] on December 27, 60's Event on December 28, and 80's Headline on December 30. The former two appeared in Round 1, and the latter in Round 2.
  • Really Long Title: A subset of Title used as a joke on April Fool's Day 1997, which had Pat and Vanna playing for charity. The puzzle was SUPERCALI-FRAGILISTIC-EXPIALIDOCIOUS, hyphenated in that fashion to fit on the board. It offered a $2,000 bonus for identifying the musical which provided the song, correctly identified by Pat as Mary Poppins.

Also, the vast majority of the Crossword Rounds (introduced in Season 34) have used a unique category, although occasionally this feature adapts an existing category.

Wheel 2000 Categories

While Wheel 2000 only ever used Person, Place, and Thing in the Bonus Round, it had a unique set of categories in the front game.

  • Above & Below: Puzzles related to whatever is above the Earth or below it, such as MOLTEN ROCK for the latter.
  • Book Soup: Puzzles related to literature, occasionally overlapping with V.I.P.'s.
  • Bright Ideas: Puzzles related to inventions.
  • Every Body: Puzzles related to body parts.
  • Globetrotter: Puzzles related to world geography or demographics. Cyber Lucy always gave a short dance whenever this category was chosen, which David Sidoni made note of in one episode.
  • It Adds Up: Puzzles related to mathematics or numbers.
  • Just Stuff: Same as Thing.
  • Lab Test: Puzzles related to science.
  • Made in the USA: Puzzles related to the United States.
  • Measure It (sometimes Measurement): Puzzles related to measures and the like. Apparently never chosen.
  • Monumental: Puzzles related to monuments, most likely the same as Landmark. Possibly never chosen.
  • Paint by Numbers: Puzzles related to art.
  • Space Case: Puzzles related to outer space.
  • V.I.P.'s: Same as Proper Name.
  • Word Rap: Puzzles related to grammar and punctuation. In at least one episode, Lucy stated that this was her favorite category.

Category Distribution

Main Game

For most of the game's history, it was not uncommon for a category to be duplicated in the main game. The same category could often appear as many as four times in a single game, including at least two daytime games where only Phrase was used, and a late-1988 game where every puzzle except the Bonus Round was Thing. It is possible that the duplication was phased out to allow a better "spread" of categories throughout a game as more and more categories were introduced. September 17, 1992 is the last known instance of a game using the same category (specifically, Thing) four times until the introduction of the Triple Toss-Up in Season 37 (wherein three consecutive Toss-Ups are played, each with the same category).

Perhaps in relation to the above, many games before 1996 had more than one "bonus" category, and there are only two known instances of one being duplicated: Clue was used twice on both November 23, 1992 and March 29, 1995, the latter of which is notable for being the only known game composed entirely of "bonus" categories (the other two being Megaword and Fill In the Blank in Rounds 2 and 3, respectively). The increased use of "bonus" categories/questions, combined with the introduction of Megaword and the increased use of puzzles with fewer commonly-called letters, seems to indicate a temporary attempt at increasing the difficulty throughout most of Season 12.

The last known instance of two "bonuses" being used is March 26, 1996, which had Clue in Round 2 and a Place in Round 4 of NEW HAVEN CONNECTICUT (followed by Pat asking the contestant which Ivy League university is based there). The decision to use no more than one per game may also be related to time constraints.

Occasionally, games have had two categories used twice; April 28, 1988 and March 17, 2003 are the only known games in which three categories (Phrase, Thing{s}, and Person on the former; Fictional Characters, Thing{s}, and Around the House on the latter) were used twice.

It is still fairly common for the Bonus Round category to be a category that is used in the main game. In the 21st century, only a handful of games have had a category occur three times, most often due to a puzzle being thrown out and replaced with one in an already-used category.

Same Name and Before & After seem to be the only categories with restrictions on where they appear in the game. Neither has appeared after Round 3 since about 2002, except for a single Same Name used in Round 4 on September 13, 2004. Also no episode since November 7, 2005 has used both. Starting in November 2009 (nearly two months into Season 27), the show began a pattern of making sure that each game used one of the two, typically with four Before & After puzzles and one Same Name in every given week, usually with the additional restriction of only appearing in Rounds 2 or 3. This pattern continued for the rest of the season (except for April 12, 2010, which appears to have had its original Round 3 puzzle thrown out) and somewhat more erratically through Season 28, but was abandoned in Season 29.

Bonus Round

Regardless of the category distribution, bonus puzzles have always been predominantly Phrase, Person, and Thing(s), although many other categories have been used over time. From about Season 26 onward, most other categories were gradually removed from rotation there; this culminated in a streak between February and June 2011 where only nine bonus puzzles in a 16-week span were in any other category, including a streak of 15 consecutive Thing(s) between May 5 and 25. The pattern began gradually reversing in Season 30, and was made more obvious following a rule change in Season 35 to offer winning contestants a choice of three different categories in the Bonus Round.


  • Around the House was used once between late 2008 and early 2017.
  • Best Seller was used only once: JOY OF COOKING on December 2, 2005.
  • Classic TV has only two known appearances: MORK FROM ORK on May 4, 2004 and MIAMI VICE on February 21, 2006.
  • Fictional Character(s) was last used on May 2, 2008 before it was renamed Character(s); the rename first appeared there on September 20, 2017.
  • Fictional Place is only known to have been used once: UTOPIA on November 25, 2008.
  • Foreign Word(s) has at least three known appearances: May 6, 8, and 22, 1992 (DEJA VU, BUENO, and HOMBRE, respectively).
  • In the Kitchen only appeared six times between its introduction and 2007, and did not reappear until late 2017.
  • Despite its relative obscurity, Nickname appeared at least twice in Season 6 alone: HOT LIPS and MOTOR CITY. It is possible that it appeared at other times.
  • Occupation(s) was not used between September 15, 2009 and May 16, 2013.
  • On the Map was not used between January 2, 2009 and October 15, 2013.
  • On the Menu appeared only nine times before it was renamed Food & Drink; the rename first appeared there on October 17, 2006.
  • Proper Name has not been used since October 10, 2008.
  • Despite being present since at least mid-January 1978 (predating the Star Bonus), there are only six known instances of Quotation being used: HEAVEN ON EARTH sometime between November 29 and December 13, 1984; PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE in October 1987; TWO IF BY SEA in September 1988; WE SHALL OVERCOME in 1989; LOVE THY NEIGHBOR in November 1991; and JACK BE QUICK on December 14, 2012. The first was on the daytime show, while the rest were nighttime.
  • Rhyme Time has only five known appearances: FINE WINE around December 2002; HODGEPODGE on December 23, 2005 (also one of the only known one-word Rhyme Time puzzles); SKY-HIGH on March 23, 2006; ZIP YOUR LIP on December 24, 2007; and TOUGH STUFF on May 2, 2011.
  • Over its three seasons, Slang often appeared multiple times per month, likely because it lent itself to short answers.
  • Song Lyrics has been used at least twice: WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS on November 17, 2004 and I DID IT MY WAY on December 22, 2006.
  • For no particular reason, Title has not been used since December 7, 2005. None of the three subsets introduced in Season 23 have been used, either.
  • What Are You Doing? appeared twice in its first season (January 9 and 17, 2008), but did not re-appear until December 13, 2010. It appeared twice in January 2011 and once that April, then was absent until November 1, 2012. After that, its use in the Bonus Round became increasingly frequent; from that point through the end of the season, it appeared at least once a month, barring January 2013. It has appeared sporadically ever since. The most recent use of a What Are You Doing? puzzle without an -ING happened on the Bonus Round of June 5, 2013 (THE LIMBO).
  • What Are You Wearing? first appeared there on September 21, 2017.