Tic-Tac-Dough: Wikis


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Tic-Tac-Dough logo from the 1978-86 syndicated version.
Format Game Show
Created by Jack Barry
Dan Enright
Presented by Jack Barry (1956)
Gene Rayburn (1956-1958)
Jay Jackson (1957-1958, primetime)
Win Elliot (1958, primetime)
Bill Wendell (1958-1959)
Wink Martindale (1978-1985)
Jim Caldwell (1985-1986)
Patrick Wayne (1990-1991)
Narrated by Bill Wendell (1956-1958)
Bill McCord (1958-1959)
Jay Stewart (1978-1981)
Bob Hilton (1981)
Charlie O'Donnell (1981-1986)
Larry van Nuys (1990-1991)
Country of origin  United States
Location(s) CBS Television City
Hollywood, California (1978-1980)
KCOP/Chris Craft Studios
Hollywood, California (1981-1985)
The Production Group Studios
Hollywood, California (1985-1986)
Hollywood Center Studios
Hollywood, California (1990-1991)
Running time 30 Minutes
Production company(s) Barry, Enright, & Friendly Productions (1956-1959)
Barry & Enright Productions (1978-1986, 1990-1991)
Distributor Colbert Television Sales (1978-1986)
ITC Entertainment (1990-1991)
Original channel NBC (1956-1959)
CBS (1978)
Syndicated (1978-1986, 1990-1991)
Original run July 30, 1956 – March 8, 1991

Tic-Tac-Dough is an American television game show based on the pen-and-paper game of tic-tac-toe. Contestants answer questions in various categories to put up their respective symbol, X or O, on the board. Three versions were produced: the initial 1956-59 run on NBC, a 1978-1986 run initially on CBS and then in syndication, and a syndicated run in 1990-1991. The show was produced by Barry & Enright Productions.

Jack Barry, the co-producer, was the original host of the 1950s version, followed by Gene Rayburn and then Bill Wendell, with Jay Jackson and Win Elliot hosting prime time adaptations as well. The 1970s version was hosted by Wink Martindale until the 1985-1986 season, when Jim Caldwell took over, and Patrick Wayne hosted the 1990 version.


Broadcast history


Tic-Tac-Dough premiered on NBC daytime television on July 30, 1956, hosted at first by co-creator and co-executive producer Jack Barry, who also hosted soon-to-be-popular (and scandal-ridden) Twenty-One.

Barry yielded Tic-Tac-Dough's hosting to Gene Rayburn later in the year. Rayburn was later replaced by announcer Bill Wendell on October 6, 1958. Wendell hosted the show until its demise on October 23, 1959, with the announcing taken over by Bill McCord.

A nighttime version played for bigger stakes aired from September 12, 1957 to December 29, 1958. First hosted by former Twenty Questions emcee Jay Jackson, he was replaced by Win Elliot on October 2, 1958 for the duration of the show's nighttime run.

Quiz show scandal

In August 1958, the cross-network hit game show Dotto was canceled after network and sponsor executives discovered the game had been rigged, and when newspaper headlines exploded with confirmation that deposed Twenty One champion Herb Stempel's allegations of rigging on that show were true. The big-money quiz shows began to sink in the ratings and disappear from the air as the scandal widened.

Tic-Tac-Dough did not go unscathed before its cancellation. A 1957 installment preserved on kinescope, featuring a U.S. military serviceman winning over $140,000 during his run on the show, became one key subject of the federal grand jury investigating the quiz fixing. That run occurred during Jay Jackson's tenure as host. Jackson was never implicated in any wrongdoing himself, and he had left the show well before the quiz investigations began, but he never again hosted a television game show. The same could not be said for Tic-Tac-Dough producer Howard Felsher. Felsher was in charge of all facets of the show's production, including picking the contestants. One of them, sixteen year old Kirsten Falke, auditioned as a folk singer. This led her to the offices of Tic-Tac-Dough producer Felsher, who would provide young impressionable Kirsten with the answers and hints to win on the show and a promise to showcase her talent and sing. "I botched it up", retorted Kirsten. She requested her categories in the wrong order and, as a result, walked away with a paltry $800. A grand jury subpoenaed Kirsten Falke to testify, and producer Howard Felsher implored her to lie. Felsher admitted to congressmen that he urged roughly 30 former show contestants and all of his production staff to lie to the grand jury, and that he had himself lied under oath. Felsher also estimated that about 75% of the nighttime Tic-Tac-Dough run had been rigged. Felsher was fired in the fallout of the quiz show scandals by NBC,[1] but would later resurface as a producer for Goodson-Todman Productions in the 1970s and 1980s.

It was also revealed that one of the key figures in the Twenty One side of the scandal, Charles Van Doren, had applied originally to become a Tic-Tac-Dough contestant. Only Enright's persuasion convinced Van Doren to compete on Twenty One, in the infamous challenge that dethroned Herb Stempel.

The daytime show was unaffected, and host Gene Rayburn's career was completely unscathed. After Tic-Tac-Dough, Rayburn went to Goodson-Todman, where in 1962, he began his most famous hosting assignment on The Match Game.


Almost two decades after its original cancellation, the game was reborn as The New Tic-Tac-Dough when CBS gave it a summer daytime run. The series ran from July 3 to September 1, 1978 and made way for daytime repeats of All in the Family. On September 18, a previously-planned nighttime version premiered in first-run syndication, where it aired in some markets as a companion series to fellow Barry-Enright game The Joker's Wild.

Wink Martindale hosted Tic-Tac-Dough for its first seven seasons, then left on May 24, 1985 to host his new creation Headline Chasers. Jim Caldwell took over as host on September 9, 1985 and hosted until the series finale on May 23, 1986. Announcer Jay Stewart served as announcer for the first three years. Charlie O'Donnell replaced Stewart in 1981. Occasional substitutes for those announcers included Johnny Gilbert (including the syndicated premiere), Bob Hilton, Mike Darrow, John Harlan, and Art James.

In an interview, Martindale stated that while the CBS version began airing Barry & Enright Productions secured a spot to air a syndicated version that began in the fall. The CBS version ended due to poor ratings, but the syndicated version drew high numbers and as a result had an eight-year run.

Beginning around 1980, every Friday was "Hat Day", where Martindale would receive hats from viewers to show off at the end of the show. Some were winter hats, and some even dealt with the show (such as having a picture of a dragon on them). He also wore hats on the Friday shows of Las Vegas Gambit, which he was also hosting on NBC at the time, requiring Martindale to commute between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for over a year.


Another syndicated version premiered on September 10, 1990 with Patrick Wayne hosting and Larry Van Nuys was announcer (Art James filled in for two weeks). The theme music for this version was composed by Henry Mancini, his final television theme song. This version was not a success and only ran until March 8, 1991.

This version was the last television series produced by Barry & Enright Productions, as the company folded following Dan Enright's death less than two years later.

International versions

Tic-Tac-Dough is one of only three Barry-Enright game shows known to have foreign adaptations, the others being Twenty One and Concentration.

United Kingdom

Criss Cross Quiz ran on ITV from 1957-1967, with Junior Criss Cross Quiz (a children's version without cash prizes) airing alongside the main program for the whole of its run. Jeremy Hawk hosted the show until 1962, at which point Barbara Kelly replaced him as host until the end of its run.


Tick-Tack-Quiz, hosted by Fritz Benscher, ran weekly on ARD from 1958-1967. It ran again as a daily show using the 1990 format on RTL plus in 1992 as simply Tic-Tac-Toe, and was hosted by Michael "Goofy" Förster. The 1992 German version was distributed by Reg Grundy Productions.


Tic-Tac-Dough aired on the Nine Network from 1960-1964 with Chuck Faulkner as host and was a Reg Grundy Production.


Проще простого ("Simpler Than Simple") aired on NTV in the mid-1990s with host Nikolay Fomenko.

Game play

The board on a 1980 episode.

The goal of the game was to complete a line of three X or O markers on a standard tic-tac-toe board (with the reigning champion always mounting X's). Each of the nine spaces on the game board featured a category. Contestants alternated choosing a category and answering a general interest or trivia question in that category. If they were correct, they would get an X or O in that square; otherwise, it would remain unoccupied. The center square, being of the most strategic importance, involved a two-part question, with the player given ten seconds to think of the two answers needed to win the square. After each question, the categories would shuffle into different positions (in the 50s version and early in the 1978 run, the categories would shuffle after both players had taken a turn). In the 1990 version, players hit their buzzers to stop the shuffling themselves.

The game board on the original 1950s version used rolling bars (each containing the same nine categories) to display subject categories, with light boxes beneath them to display the X's and O's. The 1978 version used monitors to display the categories and markers. On the 1990 version, the entire board was computer-generated.

Like some television games, Tic-Tac-Dough used the rollover format, sometimes known also as "straddling". The matches were not confined to single episodes and could start or end at any point in an episode, and be carried over to the next. Sometimes, an entire episode would not be long enough to show one match. The contestant who won the game was crowned champion and could return until he or she was defeated. During the NBC run, a champion could retire from the show or play against another challenger, knowing that if he or she lost, the new champion's winnings would come out of the former champion's winnings. There was no limit on the length of reign (except in the 1978 daytime version, and in the 1990 version where a 15-game limit was imposed, but never reached). If at any point in a game it became impossible for either player to win, the game was immediately declared a draw, and the same two players would play keep playing games until a game ended in a win.

Adding money to the pot

As questions were answered correctly, money would be added to the pot which went to the winner:

Version Center Box Outer Box
1956-1959, Daytime $200 $100
1957-1958, Nighttime $500 $300
1978, CBS Daytime $200 $100
1978-1986, Syndicated $300 $200
1990-1991, Syndicated $1,000 $500

On the 1950s version, the same nine categories were were used for an entire episode regardless of the number of games played. On all other versions, nine new categories were used for each individual match and were replaced with new categories in the event of a tie game.

During the 1990 version, the pot reset to zero after each tie game. However, the outer box values increased by $500 and the center box by $1,000 for each tie game. On the two prior versions, the pot did not reset and carried over into the next round. Losing challengers received $100 on the 1950s version and $250 during subsequent versions for each tie game before being defeated.

1978 CBS differences

The CBS summer season had a few gameplay differences:

  • Jump-In Categories: If a category was signified with a black background, it would be played in the same manner as the Jump-In category (see "Special Categories" below).
  • Shuffling: Early on, the categories would be shuffled at the beginning of the game and after both players selected a category, but this was changed midway through the syndicated version's first season to its best-known "shuffling after each turn" rules.
  • Tie-Breaker: When a tie game occurred, a toss-up question was asked, and whoever rang in with the right answer won the game.
  • Winnings Limit: Contestants retired from the show upon winning $25,000, the maximum amount for any contestant on a CBS daytime game show at the time.

Special (red) categories

The use of special categories, which appeared in red boxes (red letters in the 1990 version), began on the syndicated version in 1980 with the "Secret Category", a mystery category announced by the host after it was selected. A correct answer to that category doubled the value of the pot (and, on several occasions where a game went into multiple ties, sent the pot well over $10,000). Eventually the "Secret Category" was replaced by the "Grand Question", which would add $1,000 to the pot with a correct answer.

At first, just one special category (starting in the lower right box, later in the lower center box) was used per game. Eventually, two appeared each game (one in the upper center, the other in the lower center at the start), then three of these appeared per game (in the upper center, center right and lower center boxes to start the game). The categories then shuffled like normal categories, though special categories never shuffled into the center box.

Other special categories used included:

  • Auction – Players were read a question with multiple answers. Players took turns bidding on how many correct answers they could name until either a contestant deferred to his opponent or opted to name all the answers on the list. If the winning bidder fulfilled the bid, that player won the box. If not, the other player only needed to give one additional correct answer to win the box.
  • Bonus Category – A three-part question was asked, which, if answered correctly, gave the player another turn. More than once, a player obtained Tic Tac Dough without allowing their opponent a chance to play by selecting this category multiple times (after it had shuffled to another location), which may have led to its eventual retirement during the final season. When that happened, the other player returned to play another game.
  • Challenge Category – The player who selected this category could answer the question or challenge their opponent to answer. If the opponent challenged gives a wrong answer, the player who selected the category won the box, and vice-versa.
  • Double or Nothing – If the player answered the question correctly, they could either keep the box or try to earn a second box. If unsuccessful, the contestant would lose both boxes. (Later in the show's run, players were required to take the risk.) When this category was selected, the board did not shuffle after the first question was answered correctly.
  • It's A Dilemma – The player heard the question and could ask for up to five clues; however, the opponent decided who answered the question. It was not a popular category and was usually picked only for a block or for the win.
  • Jump-In Category – Players used the buzzers in front of them to ring in and answer the question. A correct answer won the box, but an incorrect answer gave the other player a chance to win the box by hearing the entire question. In the 1990 version, the category name was accompanied by a general subject or "Who?", "What?", "Where?", etc.
  • Number Please – The players were asked a question with a numerical answer. The player who picked the category guessed the answer and the opponent guessed if the correct answer was higher or lower. If the opponent was correct, they won the box, otherwise the first player won. An exact guess of the number won the box automatically for the first player.
  • Opponent's Choice – The player answered a question from one of two categories which were selected for them by the opponent. When Jim Caldwell hosted, one category contained one question while the other category contained two.
  • Play Or Pass – The player had the option to skip the first question and answer a second.
  • Seesaw – A question with multiple answers was read to both players. Players alternated giving correct answers until one player gave a wrong answer, repeated an answer, or could not think of an answer and the opponent won the box. The box could also be won by giving the last correct answer.
  • Showdown – Players were asked a two-part question, using the buzzers to ring in. The first player to ring in answered one part of the question. The other player answered second. If one player was right while the other was wrong, the player answering correctly won the box. Otherwise, additional questions were asked until the box was awarded in this manner.
  • Take Two – The question had two clues. The player could answer after the first clue, but to receive the second clue he or she had to first give the opponent a chance to answer.
  • Three to Win – A series of buzz-in questions was asked to both players, with the first to answer three correctly winning the box.
  • Top Ten – A question with ranked answers was asked of both players. The player who chose the higher-ranked answer won the box. Renamed Top This during the final season.
  • Trivia Dare – A question with three multiple-choice answers was asked. The player chose who would answer first. Regardless of who started, if a player was incorrect, his/her opponent could choose from the remaining answers. If the opponent also guessed wrong, the box remained unclaimed.

1978 Bonus round ("Beat the Dragon")

There was no bonus round in the original series (like most 1950s game shows). The bonus round was introduced in the 1978 version. The winner of a match was given the chance to "Beat the Dragon". Three different formats were used: one for the network version, one for syndication, and one for the 1990 version.

CBS Bonus round

On the CBS daytime summer run, the bonus round had four Xs, four Os and one dragon hidden inside the 9 monitors. The Xs and Os were shuffled around so that one of the symbols formed a "Tic-Tac-Dough". For each X and O a player revealed, $150 was added to the pot. The player always had the option to take the cash and end the game, as finding the dragon ended the round and lost all the money. Finding the "Tic-Tac-Dough" line won the game, and the contestant kept the accumulated money and won a prize package. The maximum amount of cash a player could win in this round was $1,200, provided that they revealed all the squares and completed the "Tic-Tac-Dough" line last.

Syndication Bonus round

On the syndicated run, the squares contained the words "TIC" and "TAC", and six dollar amounts: $50, $150, $250, $350, $400, and $500 (soon after $100, $150, $250, $300, $400, $500). The remaining box concealed the dragon. The object was for the player to accumulate $1,000 or more. If successful, the player won the cash and a prize package that usually consisted of furniture, trips, jewelry, and/or appliances, totaling anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000. The same prize package was at stake for the entire show until won. The player automatically won by uncovering "TIC" and "TAC" (at which point the player also had his/her cash total amended to $1,000). However, if the player found the dragon before reaching $1,000 (or finding "TIC" and "TAC"), the game ended and the player forfeited the prize package and the accumulated money. The contestant could stop at any time, take the money and forgo the prize package. For a brief period in 1983, a player had to accumulate exactly $1,000 or find TIC and TAC, but this was quickly removed.

Dragon Finder

For a time in 1983, members of the studio audience were invited onstage to play a special "Find the Dragon" game whenever the bonus round was won or a contestant stopped early.

Instead of uncovering the board immediately to find the dragon, the audience was invited to expose where the dragon was hidden behind the remaining numbers. Originally, finding the dragon was worth a flat $250. Later in the game's run, the first player to reveal the dragon won $250 plus $50 for each unsuccessful pick. At that time, each player got a Dragon Finder cap, which was introduced on a Friday "Hat Day" the week before that began. The pot then carried over to the next bonus round if the dragon was not found

1990-91 bonus round

The short-lived 1990-91 syndicated series used a bonus round that was similar to the 1978 CBS bonus round, but with several notable differences. One was that the contestant chose between X and O as their symbol for the round and hoped to complete a "Tic-Tac-Dough" line with that symbol. In addition, an armored knight dubbed the "dragon slayer" was added to the board. While, other than those changes, the primary objective was the same, it was not always possible to complete a Tic-Tac-Dough with a player's chosen symbol due to both the shuffling and distribution of the symbols (4 of one, 3 of the other at all times).

For the first of their symbols a player found, they received $500. Each one found after that doubled the pot. If the player completed the Tic-Tac-Dough, they won the value of the pot and a prize. Finding the dragon slayer resulted in an automatic win, with the player receiving double the pot (or $1,000 if the dragon slayer was found on the first pick) and the prize. Sometimes finding the dragon slayer was the only way to win. As before, finding the dragon at any point ended the round and cost the player everything.

Beginning about seven weeks into the run, the dragon and knight described their purpose in a short rap song as they were introduced by host Wayne.

Winning a car (1978–1986)

If a player was fortunate enough to win five Tic Tac Dough matches in a row, he or she would win a new automobile:

Record winnings

The 1978 syndicated version of Tic-Tac-Dough never had a winning limit. Defending champions continued to play until they were defeated. Several players defeated ten or more opponents. Some players were able to win over $100,000 in cash and prizes, setting game show records at the time. Over the course of nine weeks on the show in 1980, Thom McKee defeated 43 opponents to win eight cars and take home $312,700 in cash and prizes, a record at the time. Over $200,000 of his winnings was in cash. In one game, he broke the record for winning the biggest pot in a match, which reached $36,800 after four tie games against challenger Pete Cooper.[citation needed]

The most money won in a match was $46,900, which was won by Randy James as the game's challenger. The match ran for six straight episodes before Randy finally won the game (and the record-setting pot).


For the 1978-1986 version, the game board, designed by Bob Bishop of Apple Computer,[2] was driven by nine Apple II computers, each one responsible for displaying a single box of the gameboard, and in turn controlled by an Altair 8800 system. It was one of the very first uses of computer graphics on a television game show.

All versions of the show beginning in 1978 were produced in Los Angeles. From 1978 to the end of 1980, the show was recorded at CBS Television City. From 1981 to 1985, the show was taped at KCOP (Chris Craft Studios). The 1985-1986 season was taped at The Production Group Studios. The 1990 version was recorded at Hollywood Center Studios.

Episode status and reruns

Some NBC-era episodes hosted by Jack Barry are located at the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City. An episode of the Jay Jackson-hosted prime-time version has been available as part of a public domain compilation on home video. The CBS version is believed to have been destroyed, aside from a home recording of the first four episodes. The syndicated Martindale/Caldwell run is currently held by Sony Pictures Television. Patrick Wayne's version is currently owned by ITV Studios.

Episodes from the 1978-1986 version have been rerun on CBN from around 1983-1984 to December 26, 1986, the USA Network from October 12, 1987[3] to September 7, 1990[4] and at various times on GSN. Despite its failure in syndication, reruns of the 1990s version were shown on the USA Network from March 29, 1993[5] to June 24, 1994.[6]

Home versions

The first home editions of Tic-Tac-Dough were produced in 1956 by the Transogram Company. These versions, based on the Jack Barry-hosted version of the show, featured a gameboard with rotating categories that operated similarly to the board on TV. Four editions were released altogether: two regular editions and two "Junior Editions" with questions geared for younger players. The game proved popular even after the quiz show scandals and the cancellation of the show. By 1960, the games were re-released without any references to Barry or the show as 3-In-A-Row Home Quiz.

The Ideal Toy Company released a promotional Tic-Tac-Dough board game in 1978 (but had a copyright date of 1977, with a picture on it likely to be from the pilot episode) which had its' main game play format faithful to the CBS daytime run, but used the "Beat the Dragon" bonus game from the syndicated version, with $200 and $350 cards in place of the TIC and TAC cards the show used. During the first two syndicated seasons, the game was awarded to all contestants on the show, win or lose.

In 1983, GameTek, then known as the Great Game Company, planned a home video game version of Tic-Tac-Dough for the Atari 2600, along with several other well-known game shows, but that year's Video Game Crash brought the project to a halt.


  1. ^ As reported in the May 19, 1959 Time article
  2. ^ Information on the "Tic-Tac-Dough" gameboard
  3. ^ The Intelligencer - October 12, 1987
  4. ^ The Intelligencer - September 7, 1990
  5. ^ TV Guide - March 27-April 2, 1993
  6. ^ The Intelligencer - June 24, 1994

External links

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