thoughts on programming


OHGB: Beating the Wheel of Fortune Bonus Round

In the early years of Wheel of Fortune, the finalist in the Bonus Round was only allowed to choose 5 consonants and 1 vowel. R, S, T, L, N, E were the most commonly chosen letters, and with good reason, too. If you look at the 1,000 most common words in the English language, you will find that the most common letters are E, T, R, A, O, N, I, S, L, and D. If you eliminate all but one vowel, you get R, S, T, L, N, E.

In 1988, Wheel of Fortune changed the rules of the bonus round to give contestants R, S, T, L, N, E and, in addition, allowed them to select three additional consonants and an extra vowel.

Why are the producers of the show so generous with the most common letters? And what is the optimal strategy behind picking letters in the Bonus Round?

I found a historical database of bonus round answers and wrote a quick-and-dirty Nokogiri scraper and an analyzer to perform a letter frequency analysis.

Are the producers of Wheel of Fortune purposefully picking words that avoid RSTLNE? It appears so. The letter E is wildly underrepresented, whereas letters like G and B are overrepresented.

And there you have it. If you ever get to the Wheel of Fortune bonus round, be sure to pick O, H, G, B.