"Tic Tac Dough" premiered on the NBC daytime lineup on July 30, 1956, at noon Eastern time. Jack Barry was the initial host, although for several months while he was also hosting "Twenty-One" on Thursday nights, Gene Rayburn took over for him as host on the Friday episodes. In October 1958, Barry left the show, and announcer Bill Wendell was promoted to host. A nighttime version premiered in prime time on September 12, 1957, with host Jay Jackson, permanently replaced by Win Elliot the next week.

Two contestants competed against each other to answer general knowledge questions in various categories displayed on a tic-tac-toe board. One contestant represented "X" and the other represented "O"; a correct answer put that contestant's letter on the board and added $100 to the pot that was given to the winner ($200 for the center square). Like in tic-tac-toe, the object was to get three in a row. If neither contestant managed to do that in one game, the board would be cleared and a new game would start, over and over with the pot steadily increasing until someone finally won.

The 1950s "Tic Tac Dough" was caught in the quiz show scandals, and the nighttime version left the air December 29, 1958, with the daytime version hanging on until October 30, 1959.

The game show was revived in the 1970s, premiering on the CBS daytime lineup on July 3, 1978. Wink Martindale was host, and while the main game was essentially similar except for higher dollar values for the questions ($500 for the center square, $300 for the others), a bonus round had been added. Nine video monitors, numbered 1 through 9, hid dollar amounts, the words "TIC" and "TAC," and a dragon. The contestant called numbers out until they either accumulated $1,000 or more, had picked both "TIC" and "TAC," or lost by picking the dragon.

The new version left CBS quickly, as of September 1, 1978, but went into first-run syndication beginning in the fall of 1978 and became very successful, lasting through the 1985-86 season (with Jim Caldwell taking over as host for the final season). With no limits from a network on how long a contestant could appear, some stayed around for quite a while. The most notable example of this was Thom McKee, who appeared for nine weeks in 1982 (45 shows), winning a grand total of $312,750 in cash and prizes, which was the most awarded to anyone on a single game show in the U.S. until "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" came along.

"Tic Tac Dough" was revived once more in syndication during the 1990-91 season. Patrick Wayne, son of John Wayne, hosted this version, which also featured the worst theme song Henry Mancini ever wrote. The bonus round video monitors now hid X's, O's, a dragonslayer, and a rapping dragon; the object was to either find three X's, three O's, or the dragonslayer before finding the dragon.

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