Jack Barry (daytime, 1956-1958)
Gene Rayburn (daytime, 1956-1958 {Fridays only})
Bill Wendell (daytime, 1958-1959)
Jay Jackson (nighttime, 1957-September 1958)
Win Elliot (nighttime, October-December 1958)
Wink Martindale (1978-1985)
Jim Caldwell (1985-1986)
Patrick Wayne (1990)
Bill Wendell (1956-1958)
Bill McCord (1958-1959)
Jay Stewart (1978-1981)
Charlie O'Donnell (1981-1986)
Larry van Nuys (1990)
Bob Hilton (1980, sub)
Art James (1980/1990, sub)
Johnny Gilbert (1984, sub)
NBC Pilot: 7/23/1956
NBC Daytime: 7/30/1956 - 10/23/1959
NBC Primetime: 9/12/1957 - 12/29/1958
CBS Daytime: 7/3/1978 - 9/1/1978
Tic Tac Dough Logo 1978
Tic Tac Dough Logo 1985
Syndication (Daily): 9/18/1978 - 5/23/1986
Pilot: 1989
Syndication (Daily): 9/10/1990 - 12/7/1990
Barry & Enright Productions
Colbert Television Sales (1978-1986)
ITC (1990)

On Tic-Tac-Dough, contestants play tic-tac-toe, trivia style.

Main GameEdit

Two contestants, one a returning champion playing "X", the other the challenger playing "O", faced a tic-tac-toe style game board. On the board are nine categories in nine boxes. The contestants in turn picked a category, then the host asked a question under that category. A correct answer won the box by placing his/her symbol in it, an incorrect answer meant the box remained unclaimed. After each turn (originally after each round), categories shuffled to different positions. The object of the game was to place three Xs or Os in a row, either across (horizontally), up and down (vertically), or diagonally. Along the way, correct answers also added money the pot. The outside boxes were worth a small amount, while the center box was worth even more, since the questions there were tougher; in fact they were all two-parters, and the player in control was given extra time to think it over. The first player to get tic-tac-dough won the game, became Tic-Tac-Dough champion, took all the money in the pot, and (starting in the 70s) went on to play the Tic-Tac-Dough bonus game. If the game ended in a tie (eight boxes for both players with no chance for a win, or the board was completely filled-up), a brand-new game was played (with new categories starting in the 70s), and the pot continued growing from the last total amount from the previous game. Challengers ("O" players) won money for each tie should he/she lose.

50s VersionEdit

The game board had big round rolling machines used to shuffle the categories, and light boxes to light up the X's & O's.

The outer boxes were worth $100, while the center box was worth $200 in the daytime version, for a maximum total of $1,000 per game. In the nighttime show, the outer boxes were worth $300, and the center was worth $500, for a total of $2,900.

Champions from this version can decide to either continue playing or retire from the show. If the challenger won, the money in the pot was taken out of the former champion's grand total, potentially leaving the former champion with nothing. Losing challengers won $100 for each tie game.

There was no bonus game in this version.

70s & 80s CBS/Syndicated VersionsEdit

The well-remembered version premiered on July 3, 1978 on CBS and lasted for two months, but gave light to the syndicated nighttime version which lasted for an incredible eight years.

The game board was computerized and had nine television monitors, designed by Bob Bishop of Apple Computer, Inc., and it was driven by nine Apple II computers, each one responsible for displaying a single box of the game board, 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.

The values of the boxes in the CBS summer run were the same as the 50s NBC daytime run, but in the syndicated run, the values were upped to $200 for the outer boxes, and $300 for the center, for a maximum of $1,900 per game.

Starting in season two of the syndicated run, losing challengers won $250 per tie game.

Champions in the CBS run stayed on the show till they were either defeated or exceeded the then CBS winnings limit of $25,000 or more. There was no limit whatsoever in the syndicated run; they just play till they lose.

Champions who won every five matches won a new car, like the Chevrolet Chevette ($3,800 in 1978, $5,600 from 1981-1982, $5,800 from 1982-1983, and $6,100 from 1983-1984), Buick Skylark ($5,200 in the first syndicated season and $5,400 in 1980), Buick Century ($5,300 from 1979-1980 and $6,500 from 1980-1981), the $12,500 AMC Eagle wagon during Martindale's final season, or the $10,500 Mazda GLC during the final (Jim Caldwell) season.

The Red CategoriesEdit

Starting in season two of the syndicated run, certain categories appeared in a red background (regular ones appeared in a blue background). Those were very special categories. Some had special questions, some may affect the outcome of the game, and others allowed both contestants to play. None of them appeared in the center box, for none of them had two-part questions.

  • Secret Category: This was the show's very first red category, which first appeared in the lower right hand corner at the start, then later appeared in the bottom center at the start. The Secret Category is sort of a mystery, for it can be any category at all. A correct answer to that question from that category doubled the total of the pot, thus making pot values occasionally worth more than $10,000, with two of the biggest pot values in the history of the series being worth $38,100 (won by Tom O'Connor), and the other pot worth $36,800 (won by Thom McKee). The largest pot in series history, $46,900, was won after the Secret Category was retired. This, of course, was inspired by the "Mystery Category" from the syndicated 70's era of "The Joker's Wild".
  • Jump-In Category: The host would read the question to both players, and the first player to buzz-in got a chance to answer. A correct answer won the box, but an incorrect answer gave the opponent a chance to answer for the box, by hearing the entire question. In the CBS run, the Jump-Ins were identified by a black background behind 1, 2, or 3 categories, and in the earlier months, jump-ins were also played if the game ended in a tie. There were two other variations of that category which will be explained later. In the 90's run, the Jump-In sound was a pitch lower than the sound used to stop the category shuffling.
  • Challenge Category: This was where the person who selected the box decided to either answer the question him/herself or challenge his/her opponent to do the same. A correct answer or a successful challenge won the box.
  • Bonus Category: A three-part question was asked to the player in control. Answering all three parts correctly not only won the box, but also another turn. A Tic-Tac-Dough can be achieved by going for that category (either three times or twice plus one regular category) in three straight moves, causing the opponent to return to play another game.
  • Opponent's Choice: So called because the opponent got to decide from which one of two categories he/she wants the player in control to answer a question. In the final season, the player in control can be forced to answer two questions on one category, or one in another. This was the inspiration for the "Opponent's Choice" in Round 2 of the "Dollar" format of the 1990 era of "The Joker's Wild".
  • Play or Pass: This was where the player in control can decide, after hearing the question, to answer that question or pass it up for another question.
  • Seesaw: One question with multiple answers was asked, and the contestants starting with the player who selected the category, took turns answering the that question. Play continues until one of the players gave a wrong answer, repeated one, or ran out of time; causing the other player to win the box (the only time a player can win a box by default). The box can be also won by the player giving the last correct answer.
  • Auction: A question with multiple answers was read. Then the contestants starting with the player who selected the category, bid back and forth on how many answers they want to give. Bidding stops when a player bids the max number, or forces the other to play. The winner of the bid must then give the required number answers he/she bid on. A completed bid won the box, but an incorrect answer somewhere down the line, allowed the opponent to try and give just one correct answer to win the box.
  • Top Ten: A question with a number of ranked answers to it was asked. The player who chooses the category must then give the highest ranked answer on the list. Giving the number one answer or the higher ranked answer won the box; but an incorrect answer or a lower ranked answer gave the opposing player a chance to answer. In the final season, Top Ten was renamed Top This.
  • Double or Nothing: This was where a contestant can win two boxes in the same turn. A correct answer from one question earned the right to try and win another box. Answering the second question correctly won both boxes, but answering incorrectly earned nothing. The board did not shuffle in between categories. Originally, the player in control can decide not to go for another box, or take that risk.
  • Trivia Challenge: A multiple-choice question was asked to both players. The player who selected the box decides to either answer the question first, or dare his/her opponent to answer. The winner of the question won the box. Renamed Trivia Dare during the 1984–85 season.
  • Grand Question: This was the replacement for the now defunct Secret Category. A correct answer from that question added $1,000 to the pot.
  • Take Two: Introduced in 1985, the questions from this category had two clues. The contestant who chose the box could answer from the first clue just read, or risk losing the box by hearing the second clue and giving the opponent a chance to answer.
  • It’s a Dilemma: In this category, the first clue to the correct answer was read, then the contestant who selected the box chose how many out of the remaining five to hear; but the opponent must then decide who should answer the question. This category appeared during the Jim Caldwell season.
  • Number Please: Introduced in Fall 1985 and played like the Card Sharks questions, a question with a numerical answer was asked. The player who selected the box must then take a guess, then the opponent guessed whether the actual number was higher or lower than the first player's guess. The actual number was then revealed, and a correct higher or lower guess won the box for the opponent, but an incorrect higher or lower guess or guessing the number on the nose won the first player the box.
  • Showdown: Introduced during the Caldwell season, a series of two-part jump-in questions were asked. The first player to buzz-in had a chance to answer first, then the opposing player got to answer. Play continued until one player made a mistake, causing the other player to win the box.
  • Three to Win: A series of Jump-in questions were asked to both players, and the first player to answer three questions correctly won the box. This category was introduced in the fall of 1985.

90s VersionEdit


X takes the game in 1990.

The game board was completely computer generated, and displayed on one projection TV monitor which was housed inside a giant ball.

Most of the red categories were revived for this version. The Jump-In questions were either one of four W-question words (who, what, where, and when) or a general subject.

The box values were $1,000 for the center, and $500 for the outers. The pot did not carry over into the next game; instead the pot was reset, and values of all boxes were increased by $1,000/$500.

There was no money offered to losing challengers for tie games.

Champions stayed on the show till they won 15 matches or defeated, with the most won being 12.

Contestants stopped the shuffling of the categories themselves by hitting their buzzer, which was also used on the "Jump-In" questions (albeit a pitch lower).

Beat the Dragon (Bonus Game)Edit


Beware The Dragon. Find him, and your bonus cash is burned.

In the bonus game that started in 1978, winning contestants faced the board to which its nine boxes were numbered 1-9. Behind all but one of the numbers were either money amounts or various X's & O's, and some "WIN" symbols. Behind that one remaining number was a "dragon" icon. The winning contestant's job was to meet a certain goal before running into the mean green dragon. Every safe square usually earned money, which the player could stop and keep if he/she desired, or risk it to keep playing. Winning the bonus round earned a cash prize of at least $1,000 and a prize package worth between $2,000-$5,000. Finding the dragon ended the game and "burned" the money.

1978-1986 BonusEdit

The bonus round from the 70s & 80s version had two different formats.

The CBS BonusEdit

In this bonus game, the board now consisted of eight tic-tac-toe symbols (four Xs & four Os) and only one dragon. The Xs & Os were jumbled up making sure that there was only one way to win. The winning contestant started calling off numbers, and for each symbol found (either X or O), $150 was added to the pot. Finding the dragon at any point caused the player to lose the money; that's why he/she always got the option to stop and take the money or continue playing. If the one Tic-Tac-Dough with either symbol was found, the winning contestant not only kept the cash (for a maximum of $1,200), but also won a prize package. Later in the run, if the player found that one Tic-Tac-Dough, the winning contestant's cash total was upped to $1,000 if he/she had less than that, unless of course the player uncovered a total of seven boxes (for $1,050) or all eight (for $1,200).

The Syndication BonusEdit

The board now had six money amounts ranging from $100-$500 (originally $50-$500), squares marked TIC & TAC, and of course, the dragon. The object of this game was to uncover money amounts and try to reach $1,000 or more (exactly $1,000 without going over for a brief time in 1983), or find the TIC & the TAC (which bumped the total to $1,000). Doing either one of those things won not only the cash, but also a special prize package. Finding the dragon (of course) lost all the money, but the championship player always had the option to stop and take the money or continue.

"Dragon Finder" Audience GameEdit

For a time in 1983, an audience game called "The Dragon Finder" was instituted; it was played whenever the bonus round was won or a contestant stopped early. Instead of uncovering the board immediately to find the dragon, a randomly selected member of the studio audience was called upon to expose where the dragon was hidden behind the remaining numbers. The contestant in control chose a number from one of the remaining ones on the board to uncover the dragon. If that player failed, another audience member was chosen to do the same. Originally, finding the dragon was worth a flat $250. Later in the game's run, $50 was added for each unsuccessful pick. Also later on, each audience member who played received a Dragon Finder cap, which was introduced on a Friday "Hat Day" the week before that began (see "Hat Day" below).

For a brief period, two members of the studio audience played the "Dragon Finder" game. They were invited to expose where the dragon was hidden behind the remaining numbers. The contestants took turns choosing the remaining numbers on the board to uncover the dragon.

1990-1991 BonusEdit

The 1990s bonus game was played the same way as the CBS bonus, except with these differences:

  • The contestant had to find the Tic-Tac-Dough of the symbol of his/her choosing.
  • Finding the selected symbol won $500 to the contestant, with the money doubling for each subsequent symbol. Finding the other symbol was worth nothing.
  • A knight known as the "dragon slayer" was also added to the board, to go with the dragon. While the dragon continued to burn all the money earned by the contestant when found, the dragon slayer triggered an instant win, if found; finding him on the first pick was worth $1,000.
  • The champion used a microphone-like device to stop the shuffling of the X's and O's on the board, in which the squares were numbered, like that of the previous run. However, when a main game went immediately to the bonus game, viewers can see the main game board flip over to reveal the bonus game board.

Finding the Tic-Tac-Dough with the chosen symbol or finding the dragon slayer doubled the cash (up to $8,000), and won the prize package. If the dragon was found, you know what he does. Later on in the run, the dragon slayer and dragon would each introduce themselves by rapping.

1983 Tournament of ChampionsEdit

In 1983, the show invited eight of its (at the time) all-time highest winners, all of whom earned a collective total of $1,248,500, back to play for their favorite charities. In each game, there is no pot, no red categories, and the loser plays the bonus for $5,000; hitting the dragon earned $1,000. The final match was best of three; the winner earns $50,000. In case of a tie during the main game a multiple answer question was posed, as identical to Seesaw, the first person who did not come up with another correct answer, repeats an answer or runs out of time loses. 


72px-TV-G icon svg


Paul Taubman 1956-1959
Hal Hidey "Crazy Fun" 1978-1986
Henry Mancini 1990


Wink Martindale was originally tapped to host its sister show, The Joker's Wild, but he wound up hosting Gambit instead. He did, however, host The Joker's Wild when it was a CD-i game for Philips Interactive.

Thom McKee, a lieutenant pilot in the United States Navy, was the biggest winner in the history of Tic Tac Dough, having won $312,700. His wife Jenny, whom he just married by the time he came to the show, assisted him frequently in playing the Beat the Dragon bonus game.

On Friday shows, Wink would always wear a viewer submitted hat. This day would be referred to as "Hat Day".

GSN ranked Tic Tac Dough #32 as one of The 50 Greatest Game Shows of All-Time in 2006. The special was hosted by Bil Dwyer.

International versionsEdit

The following countries have aired their own versions of Tic Tac Dough including:

  • Australia
  • Germany
  • Indonesia
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom

Additional PagesEdit

Tic Tac Dough/Quotes & Catchphrases
Tic Tac Dough/Merchandise
Tic Tac Dough/Gallery
Tic Tac Dough/Video Gallery


The Unofficial Tic Tac Dough Supersite
Rules for Tic Tac Dough at the Game Show Temple
Josh Rebich's Tic Tac Dough Rules Page
Flash game for CBS version of Beat the Dragon
Flash game for Syndicated version of Beat the Dragon
Older Flash game for Syndicated version of Beat the Dragon

YouTube VideoEdit

Intro to 50s Tic Tac Dough
Pilot Intro to 90s Tic Tac Dough

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