Mark Goodson Wiki
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March 14, 1980
Run time
30 Minutes
Pat Sajak
Johnny Olson

Puzzlers was an unsold pilot hosted by soon-to-be-famous weatherman (and future Wheel host) Pat Sajak. It's similar in context to Wheel of Fortune, with simple puzzles such as what letter goes into which puzzles.


Four contestants (one supposedly a returning champion) play a series of puzzle games.

Preliminary Game (Double Puzzles)[]

Three contestants compete in this game for the right to face the show's returning champion.

The game is called "Double Puzzles" because the solutions were all two-word phrases and the pictures involved in this game were clues to two puzzles. The contestants were shown a picture which was a clue to the second word in the phrase. Then they were given the first word one letter at a time. Once the word puzzle was solved or completed, another puzzle was played with the same picture, only now it was a clue to the first word and then the players saw the second word revealed a letter at a time. Once that puzzle was done, the process was repeated with a new picture.

Each time a player buzzes in and solves a puzzle, s/he scored $100, but if the contestant can solve both word puzzles with the same picture correctly s/he scored a bonus $100 for a total of $300. The first player to score $500 wins the game and goes on to face the returning champion.

Championship Game (Capture the Category)[]

The two players now competed to play in the final game "Capture the Category". Five categories were played and each category had different puzzle games (some of which became their own shows in later years). Here are the different types of puzzle games:

  • Missing Initials - Players had to guess the missing initial letter which was the same in a group of five words. That kind of puzzle would be used on Pat's later & best known show Wheel of Fortune but with phrases/titles/names instead of separate words. The category for that is called, appropriately enough, "Same Letter".
  • License Plates (LCNS PLTS) - Contestants try to solve vanity license plate puzzles (ala future show Bumper Stumpers).
  • Twisters - Not to be confused with the Jim Perry-hosted pilot two years later. Contestants attempt to solve picture puzzles (ala future show Catch Phrase).
  • Picture Rhymes - A pair of initials appear on the screen followed by a picture clue. The players job was to guess the rhyme.
  • Answer the Question (Ans the Que) - Words in a question appear vertically except that only the first three letters were shown while words that have three or less are already revealed. As the puzzle progressed, more columns of letter appear one at a time until a player buzzed in with a correct answer or until the question was completed.

It takes two puzzles in any one category to capture the category, and the first player to capture three categories wins the game, $500 and goes on to play for $10,000.

Photo Finish (Bonus Game)[]

The winning player played a bonus game called "Photo Finish" for $10,000. In this bonus are ten circles with arrows arranged in a rectangle and going clockwise, with the center box as the finish line. Each circle consisted of a picture and a set of initials (ala Blockbusters' Gold Run) and all the contestant had to do was guess the picture and he'll/she'll identify the initials. The champion had 30 seconds to get as many as s/he can and if s/he gets stumped that player can pass a puzzle but not return to it. Each correct answer won $100 for a maximum of $1000. When time was up or all the puzzles were played whichever came first, the winning player then faced the "Photo Finish" puzzle. The "Photo Finish" puzzle was one last picture with two sets of initials. The champion must identify both sets of initials within 10 seconds. If the champion can do that, s/he won 10 times the first half amount for a maximum of $10,000.


The buzz-in sound effect was later used as the family pair sound effect on Blockbusters, as well as other NBC games during this period (such as the "time's up" sound from Stumpers! in the bonus round and the buzz-in sound from the 1980s Dream House).

An edited clip of a Missing Initials round appeared during Game Show Moments Gone Bananas: the first word was _ART which led to some laughter, followed by _ALL and _ABLE. After the fourth word, _ARZAN, was revealed, a contestant gave the correct answer of T. Or to quote Sajak, "Tarzan gave it away!".

The main theme song used in the pilot was borrowed from the short-lived 1979-80 game show Mindreaders hosted by Dick Martin and was used as a re-arranged commercial cue for Celebrity Charades (1979 syndicated version) hosted by Jay Johnson and Squeaky. In addition, the win cue from this pilot was later used for the 1983 pilots of Star Words and Body Language later on.

Set Pics[]




Puzzlers (1980)--Pat's entrance


Puzzlers unsold game show pilot clip


Puzzlers Pilot