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).
- 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 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.
- 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 for reasons unknown after last appearing on December 5, 2012, although the old name was present on February 20 due to it being taped out of order.
- 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 (and in the late 1990s, sometimes used the format of Star & Role). 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 a movement to retire Classic TV.
- College Life: Introduced on October 24, 2005 and used only during College Weeks, resulting in extremely sporadic usage.
- "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 followed by a $1,000 trivia question (asked by Charlie) related to the decade in question.
- The oldest known decade to be used is The Twenties.
- 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), but returned in Season 30.
- Interestingly, The 90's was actually used within the 1990s itself.
- From about 1999 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: The 90's on September 18, 2012, The 80's on September 20, and The 70's on October 12. In their current form, they are predominantly used for the titles of movies and TV shows popular in those decades.
- Event(s): Some early-1990s puzzles stretched the definition, most notably UNDER HOUSE ARREST and SLIPPED ON A BANANA PEEL which are more logically Phrase instead of Event (although SLIPPING ON A BANANA PEEL would fit). The stretching continued in the 2000s, at which point nearly anything ending in -ING (e.g., SCRUBBING, FROWNING, and SINGING OFF-KEY) was called Event. These were countered somewhat with the introduction of What Are You Doing?
- Fictional Place: A subset of Place, known to have been used since at least May 30, 1995. Despite its longevity, it has been very rarely used.
- Fun & Games: Introduced on September 6, 2004. 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 foods and drinks that would not necessarily be found on a restaurant menu. Some food- and drink-related puzzles in Seasons 21-23 were categorized as Thing or Around the House, or shoehorned into On the Menu (most egregiously the bonus puzzle BIG GULP on October 25, 2005). Interestingly, second-level contestant auditions continued to use On the Menu until at least early 2010.
- Husband & Wife: Introduced on November 27, 1989, although Pat Sajak's comments suggest it had been used earlier (and if so, the puzzles were discarded; a less likely possibility is that it actually debuted in Season 6).
- In the Kitchen: Introduced on November 8, 2005 as a subset of Around the House, albeit very rarely used since Season 27.
- Landmark: Used for specific buildings, monuments, and other man-made 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, there is no record of Landmarks being used.
- 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. There are only five known instances of the category being pluralized.
- 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)'.", something that Pat often forgot to do.
- Phrase: Possibly the most frequent category, although one recollection claims it was not present when the show debuted.
- Place(s): Until the introduction of On the Map, specific geographical locations were included in this category; it now includes only generic places.
- Proper Name(s): Introduced around October 1996. 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 March 15, 1978.
- Rhyme Time: Introduced on November 12, 1998. The puzzle is a phrase with a rhyme in it, 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.
- 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., SEWING SLOT & VENDING MACHINE).
- 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. Starting in the late 2000s, the category began spelling out AND again with increasing frequency.
- Show Biz: Introduced on September 9, 1996. Of the few categories to use unique wipes, 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., MICHAEL JACKSON'S BLACK OR WHITE), and known to have been used since at least April 26, 1993. The Song/Artist variant (e.g., LIVE LIKE YOU WERE DYING BY TIM MCGRAW) 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., BILL COSBY AS CLIFF HUXTABLE). At least twice, it was used for celebrity voice-acting roles. It is rarely used nowadays, 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, nighttime 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 given the category Classic TV instead. The category returned for certain on September 9 of that year.
- Interestingly, 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 a single exception on June 6, 2012. In both this and Song/Artist, Pat reads the slash as "and".
- What Are You Doing?: Introduced on September 12, 2007 and usually guarantees that an -ING ending will be somewhere in the answer (although three puzzles in mid-Season 26 did not have one, as did a fourth in Season 29 and a fifth and a sixth in Season 30).
Categories that have not appeared for approximately one season, or appear very sporadically, but have not been confirmed as being retired.
- Best Seller: Introduced on September 8, 2004 and very rarely used. Its last two uses were February 8, 2007 and April 22, 2011.
- 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). The category was last used November 16, 2011.
- Headline: Introduced on September 3, 1996, and very rarely used. Until September 2000, its category strip had a drawing of a rolled-up newspaper. The category was last used on September 29, 2011.
- What's That Song?: Introduced on September 16, 2010, it was only used four times in Season 28 and twice in Season 29. The puzzle is a song lyric, and a $3,000 bonus is awarded for identifying the song's title. It has not been used since October 31, 2011.
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 PS1 games (1998 and 2000) contain, but never use, Person/Title, Foreign Word, and Slang.
- Around 2002, the show's online game used Chain Reaction, 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 PS3 (2008), Wii, DS, and Facebook versions use Classic Movies. They also use Book Title for Best Seller, and refer to TV Title as TV Show Title (although the Facebook version is inconsistent in this regard).
- Some other video game versions, including the 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 PS3 and Xbox 360 games contain a bevy of unused categories, including Classic Rock (most likely Rock On!) and Where Are We Going? (not Where Are We?, as that is also present as an unused category).
- Composer/Song: Used only once, in Round 3 on March 27, 1996; the answer was RAVEL'S BOLERO. Interestingly, there are two known examples of the concept being used beforehand: IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS on December 29, 1989 (nighttime) and HANDEL'S MESSIAH in April 1993; oddly, while the latter was categorized as Artist/Song, the former used Thing rather than the more logical Person/Title.
- 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 and Fictional Character were combined into simply Character(s).
- Foreign Word(s) and Foreign Phrase: Introduced in Season 9, 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.
- 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 things that could be found in the magazine. 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". It was likely retired due to the introduction of Proper Name in early Season 14, although the category's format is sometimes used to this day in the Show Biz category.
- Rock On!: Introduced on October 25, 2005. Puzzles were themed to rock music in some way, most often referencing a rock act and/or song and sometimes taking the form of Song/Artist. Charlie introduced the category in a deep voice, except for October 5, 2009 (where Pat deliberately introduced it in a deadpan voice) and its last two appearances (December 3, 2010 and February 9, 2011) where Charlie's introduction was overdubbed with Pat saying the name of the category.
- Show/Song: Used only once sometime in Season 13, likely around March 27 (the only appearance of Composer/Song). The puzzle was likely SOUTH PACIFIC'S YOUNGER THAN SPRINGTIME; it is known that it involved South Pacific in some way, and this is the most well-known song that would fit on the then-current puzzle board. Despite this, it is used in the Nintendo 64 game as "Song/Show", one example being MEMORY FROM CATS.
- Slang: Introduced on September 7, 1992 and used until about June 19, 1995. Many of its puzzles were archaic or, in some cases, outright-fabricated terms (e.g., OFF THE BEAM). This category may have been retired due to a gradual shift away from shorter main-game puzzles.
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 partway through Season 13, $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 initially offered to the next contestant(s) in line until someone gave a correct answer or until all three contestants had guessed incorrectly. Beginning in December 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 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.
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 indicated by a hanging indent.
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 asked by Charlie and signified by four low-pitched beeps. By Season 13, they were asked by Pat and signified by 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). Although these questions were originally valued at $1,000, they increased to $2,000 and then $3,000 when the "bonus" categories did.
Until at least 2010, second-level contestant auditions used at least Who Is It? and Slogan, albeit without the question.
- 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. Interestingly, 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 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 only used question marks at the beginning from 1998 onward.
- 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, the two versions overlapped until around November 4, 1994, the last known time the "old" Fill In the Blank was used. On December 9, the "old" Fill In the Blank essentially 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 June 12, 1995, although the Australian version used "Blank" into 2006.
- Originally, the question marks were turned by Vanna like all other punctuation. Beginning in Season 13 (definitely by February 16, 1996), the question marks began to be displayed at the outset of the puzzle, likely to save time.
- 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. Debuted on September 20, 1994 and last seen April 7, 1995, with at least 29 playings during that time and only two known buzz-outs (HAPHAZARDLY around October and COPACETIC on December 22).
- Megaword was likely retired for several reasons, the most obvious being Pat's clear dislike of it and 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, a total of over six minutes). 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, although at least one given sentence ("The contestants did not know what the word PROLIFERATION meant." on December 9) was not accepted.
- Megaword is also one of the few categories to appear in some official form after its retirement: the 1996 Wheel of Fortune day-by-day calendar uses a Megaword puzzle of LABYRINTH on February 10.
- Next Line Please: An incomplete phrase which the contestant received a bonus for completing. Unlike the "original" 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 (definitely by 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 (or in at least one case, a TV series), and the bonus question involved identifying the product.
- Interestingly, at least four 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, 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; the Toss-Up Slogan puzzle A DIAMOND IS FOREVER on February 24, 2005 also 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 stop-down) ruled correct for both the puzzle answer and identification of the product. The PS3 and Facebook games still use Slogan, minus the bonus questions.
- On May 26, 2011, Slogan made a technical one-time return during the Wendy's sweepstakes, as the chain's slogan QUALITY IS OUR RECIPE was the promotional puzzle that day. However, the sweepstakes puzzles did not use categories.
- 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 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.
- Where Are We?: The puzzle gave three short clues to a specific place (although it occasionally used four during a period in Season 12, 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, occasionally, a fictional character. 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).
- 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 most associated with the quotation. This is different from the bonus question associated with some Quotation puzzles in the 1990s, in which Charlie or Pat would ask for the work that provided the quotation. Last used October 27, 2006.
Besides the three categories listed above that were only used once, the show has used several unique categories:
- 70's Song/Artists, 60's Event, etc.: During the week of December 27, 1999 (the first Retro Week), the category in Round 1 was appended with "60's" or "70's" to go with the "retro" theme. It is known that December 27 used "70's Song/Artists" and December 28 used "60's Event", so it is very likely that this theme was used throughout the week. The second Retro Week in 2001 did not do this.
- Really Long Title: Used as a joke on April Fool's Day 1997, which had Pat and Vanna playing for charity. The answer 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.
Wheel 2000 CategoriesEdit
Wheel 2000 used Person, Place, and Thing in the Bonus Round, but had a unique line of categories in the main game:
- Above & Below: Puzzles related to Earth, and possibly outer space.
- 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: Same as Place.
- 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 or possibly Event. 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, Cyber Lucy stated that this was her favorite category.
Until about 1996, 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.
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 only of "bonus" categories (Megaword in Round 2, and Fill In the Blank in Round 3).
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.
Regardless of the category distribution, bonus puzzles have always been predominantly Phrase, Person, and Thing(s).
- Best Seller was used exactly 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 Place is only known to have been used once: UTOPIA on November 25, 2008.
- Foreign Word(s) has at least two known appearances: May 6 and 8, 1992 (DEJA VU and BUENO, respectively). For no particular reason, the former was called Foreign Words despite the existence of 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.
- Despite being present since at least mid-March 1978 (slightly predating the Star Bonus), there are only five 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; 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.
- Interestingly, 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.
Categories that have never been used (that we know of) in the Bonus Round include:
- The "decade" categories – unknown.
- Before & After, Family, Fictional Family, Headline, Husband & Wife, Person/Fictional Character aka Star & Role, Person/Title, Same Name, Song/Artist aka Artist/Song, and Title/Author aka Author/Title – all of these categories lend themselves to fairly long puzzles.
- College Life – likely because bonus puzzles are not always themed to the week.
- Rock On! – possibly related to Charlie's announcement of the category.
- Same Letter – unknown, may be related to the show's tendency towards fewer categories in the Bonus Round starting in the mid-2000s.
- And, of course, the "bonus" categories and the intentional one-shots.