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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 CategoriesEdit

  • 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.
    • 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: The answer is the name of a famous book. Introduced on September 8, 2004 (curiously, in Round 5) and very rarely used; its last three uses were February 8, 2007, April 22, 2011, and March 10, 2017.
  • Character(s): A self-explanatory category, 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 inclusive for types of characters; 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. Oddly, ever since the name change, its category strip has been in the wrong font (Arial instead of Gotham) on all but a few occasions. However, the Twitter Toss-Up on June 17, 2015 was categorized as Fictional Character.
  • Classic TV: Introduced on September 16, 1996, and until September 2000 used a drawing of a console TV on its category strip. Although usually used for classic TV shows, it may also refer to characters or events from them (e.g., WHO SHOT J.R.?). It is rarely used nowadays, with its last three uses being May 6, 2008, April 2, 2010, and January 9, 2013; further, the December 8, 2008 show had THE GOLDEN GIRLS categorized as TV Title, suggesting that the show may have intended to retire Classic TV between May and December 2008, and that its two subsequent uses were flukes. It has also been used as a Twitter Toss-Up frequently.
  • College Life: Introduced on October 24, 2005 and used only during College Weeks, resulting in extremely sporadic usage. The category may feature things or events applicable to college.
  • Event(s): An activity or occurrence of some kind (e.g. POTLUCK DINNER, NEW YORK CITY MARATHON), 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 (e.g., SCRUBBING, FROWNING, and SINGING OFF-KEY). This was countered somewhat with the introduction of What Are You Doing?
  • 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, or rarely, the name of a well-known family (e.g., THE NEVILLE BROTHERS). It was not used between November 16, 2011 and November 20, 2013.
  • 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 known 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 egregiously, the bonus puzzle BIG GULP on October 25, 2005). Second-level 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; however, it was used three times in the first month of Season 33 alone. 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.
  • 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 in Season 6. Puzzles in this category are the names of two famous people who are married to each other; 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.
  • In the Kitchen: Introduced on November 8, 2005 as a self-explanatory subset of Around the House. Since about Season 27, the category has been used very sporadically, with all but one appearance from November 2010 onward being in Round 4+ or as a Toss-Up.
  • Landmark(s): Used for specific buildings, monuments, and other structures. Despite being an original category (a more specific form of Place), it is used rarely enough that Pat often mentions how rarely it is used. Despite the feasibility of doing so and the singular form's presence since 1975, there is no record of Landmarks being used until April 29, 2014.
  • Living Thing(s): Introduced on March 14, 2001 as a subset of Thing. 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.
  • Occupation(s): Known to have debuted sometime between mid-1975 and March 27, 1979. Despite its longevity, there are only seven known instances of the category being pluralized, the first being in 2004.
  • On the Map: Introduced on April 14, 1999 as a more specific subset of Place. Includes cities, countries, and any other specific 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 the 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 (e.g. SCHOOL AUDITORIUM, CANDY STORE). Since the retirement of Fictional Place, fictional locations are now categorized as Place as well (e.g. WILLY WONKA'S CHOCOLATE FACTORY).
  • Proper Name(s): Introduced around October 1996, possibly around September 25 given that Pat mentions it as a new category on that episode (despite it not being used that day). Besides referring to the name of a famous person, this category has also been used for a sports team, college, or (far more rarely) business.
  • Quotation: Known to have debuted sometime between mid-1975 and January 18, 1978. Song Lyrics, Movie Quote, and TV Quote were spun off from this category.
  • Rhyme Time: Introduced on November 12, 1998. The puzzle is a phrase with a rhyme in it, a list of thematically similar things whose names rhyme, or far less commonly, a single word with rhyming syllables (e.g., HODGEPODGE, BLACKJACK).
  • 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. Beginning in Season 32, the Same Letter is now worth a $1,000 bonus. Oddly, 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.
  • 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. Around Season 30, the category began spelling out AND again with increasing frequency (although there were a few scattered instances of this for several years prior).
  • 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 17 to a star. As with the other category-specific wipes, the latter was removed in September 2000.
  • Song/Artist: Originally Artist/Song (e.g., MARIAH CAREY'S DREAMLOVER), and known to have been used since at least April 26, 1993. The Song/Artist variant (e.g., MACARENA BY LOS DEL RIO) debuted by April 30, 1996, although the show alternated between the two until March 3, 2008 before settling on Song/Artist.
  • Song Lyrics: Introduced by December 11, 2001 as a self-explanatory subset of Quotation.
  • Star & Role: Introduced on July 17, 1989 (Bob Goen's first daytime episode) as Person/Fictional Character, the puzzle lists an actor and a character they are known for portraying (e.g., MICHAEL J. FOX AS MARTY MCFLY). At least twice, it has been used for celebrity voice-acting roles. It has been rarely used since the mid-2000s or so, going on a long hiatus from May 20, 2011 to April 1, 2013.
    • 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.
    • Star & Role seems to have entered a brief hiatus around March-June 1997, as at least three puzzles in its format were categorized as Classic TV instead. The category returned for certain on September 9 of that year. A puzzle in the Star & Role format was also categorized as Classic TV on January 8, 2004.
    • Stars & Roles has been used at least twice: February 8 and October 17, 2005.
  • Thing(s): Possibly the category that has been split up the most. Around the House, Food & Drink, In the Kitchen, and Living Thing are all unarguable subsets.
  • Title(s): 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. On rare occasions, TV Title refers to a network instead of a TV show. Of all the plural categories, Titles is probably the least used; there are only three known instances of Titles, and one of TV Titles.
  • Title/Author: (e.g., THE PEARL BY JOHN STEINBECK) A subset of Title, known to have been used since at least October 28, 1991 although Pat's comments there suggest it was introduced in Season 8. Similarly to Song/Artist, this was sometimes inverted as Author/Title from at least 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.

"Decade" CategoriesEdit

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 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.
  • 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 in 2003 (almost certainly at the beginning of Season 21).
  • The Nineties was actually used within the 1990s itself at least twice.
  • From about 2001 onward, only The 70's onward were used, and their last known "regular" use was The 90s on November 8, 2006. The 60's (with apostrophe) made a one-time return on April 6, 2011 as part of a special "recycled puzzles" episode in honor of Going Green Week.
  • 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. Oddly, 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 (e.g., ROBIN WILLIAMS AS MRS. DOUBTFIRE) or Song/Artist (e.g., RAPTURE BY BLONDIE).
  • In Season 32, the only use of a "decades" category was a single apperance of The 90's on February 19, 2015. They also did not appear at all in Season 33.
  • Oddly, The 2000's has never been used, despite the decade having passed and the aforementioned presence of The Nineties in the 1990s.

Video Game CategoriesEdit

  • The Sharedata games of the 1980s used Group.
  • The NES games listed 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 a bevy of unused audio files of Pat announcing categories not used in the game, including Classic Rock (possibly a renaming of Rock On!) 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 or On the Map.

Retired CategoriesEdit

  • 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 despite the feasibility of doing so (e.g., THE FLINTSTONES AND THE JETSONS).
  • 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), though it is not known why the former had a "plural" form. They were last used early in Season 10; on September 14, 1992 (the last known appearance of Foreign Phrase), Pat explained that the answer MAZEL TOV has several acceptable Anglicized pronunciations, giving a very likely explanation for the short life of the "foreign" categories. Another likely explanation is that there are probably 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 December 19, 1994 (although it appeared during an early-2002 audition in Chicago where the puzzle was AIR JORDAN). Given its very sporadic use in this timespan and no known examples between 1979 and 1988, it has been extremely difficult to pinpoint the category's life.
  • 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/actress and a work they are famous for (e.g., CANDICE BERGEN IN MURPHY BROWN); sometimes, "starring" or "stars" preceded the word "in". The category appears to have been retired before March 1996, as a puzzle in that format was categorized as The 70's on March 20; it was definitely gone by the introduction of Proper Name that September, although the format is sometimes used to this day in Show Biz or a "decades" category.
  • 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 known appearances as a Toss-Up: January 6, 2006 and October 1, 2009. Charlie introduced the category in a deep 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 be on the official list regardless.
  • Show/Song: Used only once sometime in Season 13, likely March 1996; the puzzle is believed to have been SOUTH PACIFIC'S YOUNGER THAN SPRINGTIME. Despite its single use, it is used in the 1997 Nintendo 64 game as "Song/Show", one example being MEMORY FROM CATS.
  • Slang: Introduced on September 7, 1992 and used until about June 21, 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.

"Bonus" CategoriesEdit

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 chime previously used on the 1987-88 version of High Rollers whenever a contestant rolled doubles.

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 incorrectly. If the correct response was provided, it appeared on the chyron. Starting in November 1995, only the contestant who solved the puzzle was allowed to guess, a rule that had previously been used by Megaword.

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 cue on September 16 or 18, 1992, which in turn was replaced by its own cues in 1997. This line of categories was phased out gradually in the late 2000s, 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 about mid-1995, these questions were indicated by four low-pitched beeps and asked by Charlie. By Season 13, the questions were asked by Pat, and by Season 14, they also began using the High Rollers chimes. 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 and then $3,000 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 long after their last appearances on the show.

  • Clue: The puzzle described a specific object, with the bonus awarded for identifying the object. Apparently introduced in October 1990, last used around 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.
  • Fill In the Blank: Debuted in Season 10, definitely by December 25, 1992. Fill In the Blank has actually been 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. Some contestants read the question marks as "blank" or "question mark" when solving, which was considered acceptable.
    • By about January 1994, the "new" 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., ? DOE ? DEERE ? THE BAPTIST for answers of John Doe, John Deere, and John the Baptist). 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 used at least once, without question marks, on a Clue puzzle in 1993 (BOOK CHEESE RIBBON, the missing word being "blue").
      • At least one contestant (October 31, 1996) solved a "three question marks" Fill In the Blank by providing the correct word in place of each question mark. This was accepted as a correct answer for both the puzzle and the bonus.
    • Interestingly, both versions of Fill In the Blank were used interchangably until about November 4, 1994, the last known time the "old" version was used. On December 9, the "old" Fill In the Blank became Next Line Please (see below).
    • 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 (e.g., ## TROMBONES LED THE BIG PARADE; the number is 76); 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 certain whether such puzzles were categorized as Fill In the Numbers. As with Fill In the Blank, some contestants read the number signs as "blank" or "number" when solving, and at least one just said the number while solving (which was regarded as a correct answer).
  • 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 at least 31 playings during that time.
    • Megaword was likely retired for several reasons. The most obvious reason for its short life was Pat's clear dislike for the category, as he would make sarcastic remarks about it on nearly every appearance (along with several episodes where it didn't appear at all), 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 (an extreme example being OXIDIZED on March 15, 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), the entire answer revealed. Unusually for a "bonus" category, it appeared in a Speed-Up at least four times.
    • Further, the judging on sentences did not appear to hold much weight on the word being used in a proper context, with only one known sentence ("The contestants did not know what the word PROLIFERATION meant." on December 9) not being accepted. There are only two known instances of contestants not attempting to provide a sentence: HAPHAZARDLY on September 27, and COPACETIC on December 22.
    • 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 which the contestant received a bonus for completing. Unlike the "old-style" Fill In the Blank, puzzles did not indicate the end of the partial phrase with a question mark. Debuted on December 9, 1994 and was last used April 17, 2008.
  • Slogan: Debuted in Season 13 (sometime between early December 1995 and February 9, 1996) as $1,000 Slogan, and renamed that September when the bonus value increased. The puzzle was the slogan of a product or company, and the bonus question involved identifying the company.
    • At least five 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 during the week of November 15, 1999, YOU'RE IN GOOD HANDS WITH ALLSTATE during the week of September 25, 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 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 in the mid-2000s. 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 PS3 game and Wheelmobile auditions still use the category, as did the original (2011) Facebook game, 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.
  • 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 (although it occasionally used four in at least Seasons 11-12, one puzzle in 2001 used two, and at least two puzzles in 1997 used only one). Introduced in Season 10, 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). Known to have been used from at least September or October 1995, last used April 23, 2008 (the plural version is known to have debuted by May 4, 1998). This was still used at second-level auditions as late as 2010, albeit without the question.
    • Through at least February 27, 1996, Who Is It? used three "clues" like Where Are We? did. The puzzle VICE PRESIDENT UNDER GEORGE BUSH on March 29 was categorized as Clue, suggesting that Who Is It? still used the three-clue format. The category's one-clue format debuted by September 10, 1997.
  • Who Said It?: Known to have been used since at least October 20, 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-ShotsEdit

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

  • 60's Event: Used on December 28, 1999, during the first Retro Week, to go with the "retro" theme.
  • 70's Song/Artists [sic]: Used on December 27, 1999, also during the first Retro Week.
  • 80's Headline: Used on December 30, 1999, also during the first Retro Week. Unlike the other two examples, which were used in Round 1, this category was used in Round 2. The second Retro Week in 2001 did not append any of the categories.
  • Really Long 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 in Season 34 have used a unique category, although occasionally this feature adapts an existing category.

Wheel 2000 CategoriesEdit

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 DistributionEdit

Main GameEdit

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 a daytime game (November 9, 1983) where all four puzzles (counting the Bonus Round) were Phrase, 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.

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 2000s, only a handful of games have had a category occur three times. Most frequently, this seems to occur when a maingame puzzle is thrown out and replaced.

Until about Season 11, Rounds 4 and beyond could occasionally be the longest puzzles of the game, which sometimes meant that Round 4 would be the only puzzle to use all four rows. However, puzzles using three rows continued to appear in that portion of the game until about October 2002. Likely in relation, Same Name and Before & After have not appeared after Round 3 since that point, except for a single Same Name used in Round 4 on September 13, 2004.

Bonus RoundEdit

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.


  • 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. So far, Character(s) has not been used in the Bonus Round.
  • 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). Oddly, the May 6 puzzle was categorized as Foreign Words rather than Foreign Phrase.
  • In the Kitchen has only been used six times: HAND MIXER on January 30, 2006; JUICE BOX on February 16, 2006; BAKING DISH on May 10, 2006; BACKSPLASH on April 24, 2007; MIXING BOWL on September 10, 2007; and CLING WRAP on September 26, 2007.
  • 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.
  • 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).

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