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10 Fun Facts About $100,000 Pyramid

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In the early 1970s, Bob Stewart—creator of such game shows as The Price is Right and Password—approached producer Mark Goodson with yet another scathingly brilliant idea: a word-play guessing game called Cash on the Line. Goodson liked the idea, but he refused Stewart’s one demand—that “Stewart” be added to the Goodson-Todman production company name. Stewart formed his own production company instead and in 1973 launched the show that was now called The $10,000 Pyramid.

The show would go on to win nine Emmy Awards (second only to Jeopardy!) and endure several title changes (due to inflation) and many different hosts (including Donny Osmond). But for our purposes, we are looking back at the definitive Pyramids, the only ones that matter—the Dick Clark/Bill Cullen-hosted versions. Play along with us!

1. ROB REINER WAS THE FIRST CELEBRITY TO WIN $10,000 FOR HIS PARTNER.

June Lockhart and Rob Reiner were the celebrity contestants for Pyramid’s 1973 premiere week. The clip above is bad quality due to the home VCR technology of that era, but several growing pains are still visible. The judges weren’t as quick on the cuckoo and were much more lenient when it came to unacceptable clues, and hand gestures hadn’t yet been forbidden in the Winner’s Circle. And take a look at that big money board—there was originally a bottom row of categories that had been hastily covered up with a piece of plywood. The original game had 10 categories in the final round, but two days before taping Bob Stewart realized no one could go through that many in just 60 seconds, so the bottom four squares were covered up to make a total of six categories necessary for the win.

2. THE NETWORK PRESIDENT WAS CONCERNED THE SHOW WAS RIGGED.

Fred Silverman was the president of CBS at the time and watched the first few tapings of The $10,000 Pyramid in his office via closed circuit TV. When not one but two contestants won $10,000 during what would be the show’s first week, he suspected that the game was rigged and came close to canceling it on the spot. He did some checking on his own with the production staff and decided that everything was kosher. Unbeknownst to Silverman, later that week, Rob Reiner predicted to Dick Clark that the game wouldn’t last more than 13 weeks—because it was too easy.

3. A LOT OF STRUGGLING ACTORS TRIED OUT TO BECOME CONTESTANTS—EVEN THOUGH THE PRODUCERS DIDN’T WANT THEM.

The $10,000 Pyramid was filmed in New York, which made it an ideal opportunity for struggling actors to win some money to support themselves between jobs. In 1981, contestant coordinator Edythe Chan told The Washington Post  that she kept a careful watch on the applicants to make sure that there was a balance and they weren’t top-heavy with wannabe professionals, but it was apparently a poorly kept secret that there was a veritable underground of actors who gathered and practiced with one another prior to auditioning for the show. Previous contestants even conducted tutoring sessions for their fellow actors and coached them on how to give a good audition. One such actor was David Graf, who won $10,000 in 1979 (approximately $34,000 in today’s dollars). Graf eventually got his big break in the Police Academy films, among other roles. He even returned to the Pyramid in 1985, but this time as one of the celebrity contestants.

4. WILLIAM SHATNER LOST CONTROL OF HIS EMOTIONS.

In September of 1977, William Shatner hiked up his trousers and confidently strutted to the Winner’s Circle after besting his former Star Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy. All looked very promising until he reached the top box and a slip of the tongue got him buzzed, costing his partner $20,000. The category was “Things That Are Blessed” and instead of saying “The Virgin Mary” he inadvertently started his clue with “The Blessed ...” His reaction to the gaffe is a lesson in bad sportsmanship.

5. BILLY CRYSTAL HOLDS A PYRAMID RECORD.

Soap star Billy Crystal holds the record for the shortest time to get to the top of the pyramid, which he did in an amazing 26 seconds in November of 1977. Dallas actor Barry Jenner missed tying Crystal’s record by one second in 1987, when he won $100,000 for his partner in 27 seconds.

Dick Clark’s personal favorite celebrity contestants besides Crystal were Tony Randall, Soupy Sales, and Patty Duke Astin.

6. TOM POSTON’S PYRAMID RECORD WAS NOT QUITE AS STELLAR.

For every Billy Crystal there’s a Tom Poston. The Newhart actor set a less illustrious record in 1986 when he was on the receiving end in the Winner’s Circle and was unable to answer a single category, for a total of $0.

7. THEY ADDED WRIST RESTRAINTS TO MAKE SURE NO ONE BROKE THE “NO HAND GESTURES” RULE.

One of the rules for the Big Pyramid rounds was that the clue-giver was not allowed to use his or her hands or any type of body language to coach their partner. (The judges were pretty strict about this; Adrienne Barbeau was disqualified for fluttering her eyelashes while trying to get the contestant to guess “Things That Flicker.”) In 1974, wrist restraints were added to the clue-giver’s chair for added protection against gesturing.

8. DICK CLARK ONCE GOT A TASTE OF HIS OWN MEDICINE.

Dick Clark had a habit of walking over to the Winner’s Circle and somewhat smugly suggesting clues a contestant could’ve/should’ve used after they’d just lost the big money round. Easy for him to do; the clock wasn’t counting down and he wasn’t relying on that prize money to pay his mortgage. In fact, when he finally did sit in a contestant chair with $25,000 at stake for his partner, he admitted that thinking of “obvious” clues was easier from the other side of the podium.

9. THE SHOW’S CREATOR WAS ALSO A PRETTY FAIR PLAYER.

One evening in 2012, composer Ben Lanzarone and his actress wife Ilene Graff had a small gathering of their show business pals at their home for an informal game night, which featured Pyramid. Bob Stewart was among the guests and, at age 91, more than held his own in the competition.

10. THAT TOP BOX CATEGORY WAS DESIGNED TO BE DIFFICULT.

The top square of the pyramid in the Winner’s Circle was referred to as “The Money-Saving Clue” by Pyramid staffers. It was intentionally more vague and esoteric than the previous clues so that the contestants had to really think for that money. On the final episode of The $20,000 Pyramid, Clark jokingly revealed a pyramid filled with “Clues That Could Have Saved Us Money”:

  • Used Car Dealers You Can Trust
  • Hit Shows on NBC-TV (NBC had long been a distant third place in ratings at that time)
  • Oil Companies in Bankruptcy
  • Famous Japanese Rabbis
  • Things Kissinger Did Not Foul Up
  • Famous Italian TV Directors (an in-joke referring to Pyramid director Mike Gargiulo).
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'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
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Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

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25 Double-Letter Scrabble Words to Have in Your Back Pocket
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The best Scrabble players are the strategic ones who keep adding words to their player vocabulary. Once you've mastered a number of two-letter words and the high-scoring ones (that are admittedly very difficult to play), start looking to double-letter words to take advantage of the multiples on your tile rack.

1. AGLOO

seal on snow
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Don't have an I for IGLOO? Use an A for AGLOO, meaning an air hole through the ice made by a seal.

2. ALLEE

allee
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Instead of an ALLEY, use this double-double-lettered word meaning a tree-lined walkway.

3. BETTA

betta fish
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Rather than BETA, use that extra T to mean the freshwater fish.

4. BRATTICE

Coal mine
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A BRATTICE now means a heavy curtain or barrier in a mine to help direct air flow, though the medieval meaning was simply a temporary partition along a wall.

5. DRESSAGE

Dressage
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The fanciest of all horse training and equestrian events, DRESSAGE is the obedience and discipline riding competition, rather than the racing.

6. FUGGY

man holding his nose because of terrible smell
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To FUG is to make something stuffy or odorous, but its adjective form (FUGGY) and past and present participles (FUGGED, FUGGING) will take care of any extra Gs on the board.

7. GHYLL

two people looking into a ravine
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Not only will GHYLL, which is a deep ravine, utilize a double-letter, but it will help if your tile bar is sorely lacking in vowels.

8. GRAAL

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GRAAL is an older form of the word GRAIL, but it's also a technique used in glassblowing.

9. HEELER

Shoemaker holding high heels
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Don't have an A for HEALER? A HEELER is a person who puts heels on shoes (as well as an Australian cattle dog).

10. HELLUVA

cursing key on keyboard
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If you're having a HELLUVA time getting rid of a few letters, this nonstandard combination word is actually Scrabble-approved.

11. INNAGE

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INNAGE is the quantity of goods remaining in a container when received after shipment.

12. LARRUP

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To decisively defeat someone or trounce them is to LARRUP.

13. MAMMEE

tropical island
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Another double-double-letter word, a MAMMEE is species of tropical tree with large red fruit.

14. MOGGY

cats
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A MOGGY or MOGGIES (plural) is the cat equivalent of a mutt.

15. OLLA

Salad in glass jars
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A quick word to tack onto some common board letters, an OLLA is a wide-mouthed pot or jar.

16. OUTTELL

woman with megaphone mural
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OUTTELL, OUTTELLS, and OUTTELLING all refer to speaking out or declaring something openly.

17. PERRON

outdoor staircase
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A PERRON can refer to both large outdoor stairways or the stone platforms of certain columns and edifices.

18. PIGGERY

pig in pig pen
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You're surely prepared with PIGGY, PIGGIE, and PIGGISH, but a PIGGERY is a pigpen.

19. QUASSIA

Quassia amara
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Score extra points with a well-place Q. A QUASSIA is another tropical tree whose bitter bark is sometimes used as a digestive aid or an insecticide.

20. SCABBLE

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No, not Scrabble. SCABBLE means to shape roughly.

21. TIPPET

tippet
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A TIPPET is a covering for the shoulders, or a ceremonial scarf worn by clergy.

22. TYPP

balls of yarn
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A TYPP (or TYPPS, plural) is a unit of yarn size. It's an acronym for thousand yards per pound.

23. VALLUM

Vallum at Hadrian's Wall
Optimist on the run, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The VALLUM was part of the defensive wall of earth and stone surrounding Roman camps.

24. WEEPIE

man and woman crying in movie theater
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While WEEPY is an adjective for tending to weep, a WEEPIE is a very maudlin movie.

25. WELLY

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According to the official Scrabble dictionary, WELLY is an acceptable form of WELLIE, the British rainboots.

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