But watching the program last night, I realized I had no factual basis for that. So I figured I would do some quick Googling and find out what the best letters actually were.
I found this website, which archives Wheel of Fortune bonus round puzzles and other associated information. 1) I am not a lone in my belief: C M D A are the four most frequently called letters at 64.6%, 59.9%, 57.9%, and 48.3%, respectively.
This just goes to show you that the bonus round puzzles are not a random sample of words from the English language–in real life, O is the fourth most common letter after E, T, and A. However, the producers intentionally pick puzzles where those letters don’t show up.
The mess in the bottom left corner is the V, J, Q, Z, X trash. G’s frequency might be overrated since a lot of those come from -ING suffixes, which you could reasonably guess if you see a word like _ _ _ _ _ N _.
Letters like C, B, or P might have an advantage in that they could appear at the beginning of words more frequently and are thus more valuable. Since this category always begins with a word ending in -ING, having the G be revealed in that slot is worthless to a contestant.
But even if you remove those puzzles from the sample, G ranks much higher than the nearest alternatives. A quick refresher: on Wheel of Fortune, the contestant who's won the most money during regular play gets a shot at the bonus puzzle at the end of the show.
The letters R, S, T, L, N and E are gimmes -- Anna White flips these over for you automatically. You then get to choose three more consonants plus one vowel -- those are revealed as well, and then you have 10 seconds to solve the puzzle.
This video of a typical bonus puzzle should suffice for the three of you who've never watched the show. If you've ever watched the show, you know that contestants rarely make this selection.
Roughly 65 percent of contestants choose C, even though five other consonants appear more frequently. M is an even worse selection -- nearly 60 percent of people pick it, but it's near the bottom of the pack of bonus puzzle letter frequency.
People are choosing letters based on their overall frequency in the English language. But the show's producers know that people are guessing C, D, M and A, so they're going to choose puzzles without those letters when they can.
We can also quantify exactly how much better of a selection these letters are over the standard CDMA picks. On average, the GPO selection yields about 2.46 revealed letters versus CDMA's 1.85.
So for instance, a selection of CDMA yields 0 revealed letters in 203 of the 1,546 puzzles. So in other words, by choosing GPO over CDMA you're twice as likely to get four or more letters revealed, and half as likely to get nothing.
This post was inspired by a weekend Reddit thread in which editor “PhaethonPrime” mined data from wheeloffortunesolutions.com. But there are some issues with this dataset: because of the irregular structure of the site you can only get answers back to 2011.
And the site includes listings for reruns that run on Saturdays and over the summer, so many of the bonus puzzles appear multiple times, which will obviously throw your counts off. However, their puzzles are up to date and appear to be updated daily, they don't include reruns, and they're complete all the way back to 2007.
I spot-checked these puzzles against the ones listed in wheeloffortunesolutions.com and found that they matched, giving me a fair amount of confidence in the numbers. On Thursday night, contestant Jessie Reagan did just that when she correctly guessed the episode’s three-word-bonus puzzle with the help of just one additional letter.
Reagan’s extraordinary feat floored longtime host Pat Speak, who remarked that “this game makes no sense at all.” After watching last week’s bizarre NSFW answer, it’s hard to argue that he’s wrong. Reagan, a middle school teacher from Florida, was tasked with completing the “What Are You Doing?” puzzle category, the same one that stumped contestant Marie Leo last week.
On Wheel, ” you can safely ignore how your opponents act most of the time and instead focus solely on puzzle solving. If anything, your greatest competition is the producers of the show, who are working hard to make sure you won’t bring down the house during the bonus round.
The board automatically reveals letters one by one until a player rings in with the correct solution. The tossups tend to reward better puzzle solvers, not clever strategists.
Each consonant is worth the cash value of the wedge the wheel lands on. These rules imply that you should focus on maintaining control over the wheel and mostly ignore your opponents.
The category “Star & Role” is uncommon but always features AS, as in “DANIEL DAY-LEWIS AS ABRAHAM LINCOLN.” Start with the S then buy the A. Lastly, “Song & Artist” and “Title & Author” has BY in it, as in “THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY.” This gives you two consonants to grab before dipping into the vowels.
If a contestant lands on the Million Dollar Wedge, and then successfully calls a consonant, solves the puzzle for the round, never spins Bankrupt for the rest of the game, has the most money at the end of the game, lands on the million dollar envelope on the bonus wheel, and solves the bonus round puzzle, he wins a million dollars. While the Million Dollar wedge makes for exciting television, it is not exceptionally valuable.
The number of hurdles that a player has to jump through to actually win the million dollars plus the fact that it is an annuity drops the wedge’s expected value to $5,000 or so, though it becomes more valuable later in the game since you will have fewer spins remaining to hit a Bankrupt. Imagine you had $2,000, hit the Mystery wedge, and called a letter that appeared three times in the puzzle.
New to the current season, the Express allows contestants to call consonants (worth $1,000 each) and buy vowels without having to spin the wheel. You might wind up Bankrupt, but it is unlikely you will solve the puzzle if you forfeit control over the round anyway.
Also, don’t solve the puzzle if you haven’t called all the consonants in it: Otherwise, you’ll be leaving free money on the table. For some unfathomable reason, three contestants have abruptly stopped to solve prematurely.
The Free Play wedge allows a player to choose any letter without losing his turn if that letter is not in the puzzle; vowels are free and consonants reward the player with $500 apiece. You will maintain your turn even if you are wrong, and the more common letters will still be around when you must take a risk.
The Wild Card allows players to replicate the value of their previous spin or spend it during the bonus round to call an extra consonant. Wild cardholders win the bonus round 7.35% more frequently than non-holders.
With the bonus round paying out roughly $37,000 on average, the Wild Card’s added value is about $2,700. Thus, even the overall leader should often use the Wild Card to match a big value spin like $5,000 rather than save it for the bonus round.
Perhaps they are worried that spinning again could result in Bankrupt or Lose a Turn, depriving them of guaranteed money. Indeed, Wheel of Fortune “’s house minimum ensures you will receive $1,000 even if you solve without any money.
So a person who solves a puzzle for $1,000 and does not accumulate any other money on the show wins the same amount as people who hit Bankrupt every time they spin the wheel. Many games are won by the player who solved Round 3’s prize puzzle simply because the prize adds an extra $7,000 or more to the player’s overall score, which smokes opponents who are consistently solving for the $1,000 pittance.
Solving with a minimal amount of money protects your lead and keeps you on track for the bonus round. Although the producers want the players to win some time, they have a vested interest in keeping costs down.
Second, the producers know historically which letters players tend to select more often. Wheel of Fortune is very generous in how much time you take to call the letters.