Game Shows Wiki
Pat Sajak
Johnny Olson
Unsold NBC Pilot: 3/14/1980
Mark Goodson-Bill Todman Productions

"What show has puzzles, pictures, and payoffs? Iiiiiiiiiiiiit's PUZZLERS! And now, here's the star of Puzzlers, PAT SAJAK!"

Puzzlers was an unsold pilot hosted by soon-to-be-famous weatherman (and future host of Wheel of Fortune) 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) played a series of puzzle games.

Preliminary Game (Double Puzzles)[]

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

The game was 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 buzzed in and solves a puzzle, he/she scored $100, but if the contestant could solve both word puzzles with the same picture correctly he/she scored a bonus $100 for a total of $300. The first player to score $500 won the game and the right 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 tried 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 attempted to solve picture puzzles (ala future show Catch Phrase).
  • Picture Rhymes – A pair of initials appeared 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 appeared vertically except that only the first three letters were shown while words that have three or less were already revealed. As the puzzle progressed, more columns of letters appeared one at a time until a player buzzed in with a correct answer or until the question was completed.

It took two puzzles in any one category to capture the category, and the first player to capture three categories won the game, $500 and the right to play for $10,000.

Photo Finish (Bonus Game)[]

The winning player played a bonus game called "Photo Finish" for up to $10,000. In this bonus were ten circles with arrows arranged in a rectangle and going clockwise, with the center box housing the "Photo Finish" puzzle. 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 hence identify the initials. The champion had 30 seconds to get as many as possible and if he/she was stumped, that player could pass on a puzzle, but could not return to it. Each correct answer won $100, for a maximum of $1,000. 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 had to identify both sets of initials within 10 seconds. If the champion could do that, he/she 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.

The win cue from this show was later used for the 1983 pilots of Star Words and Body Language.

The main theme was also used as a rearranged commercial cue for Celebrity Charades in 1979.

Coincidentally 18 years later Wheel of Fortune introduced a gameplay element in 1998 called Puzzler which was a short puzzle thematically connected to the puzzle solved before it, with the category and a few of the letters revealed that gave a contestant an extra $3,000 if solved. It was used until 2000.


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Other Photos[]


Score Productions

The theme to this show was originally used on Mindreaders.


Steve Ryan


YouTube Videos[]