The Bar: Finn MacCool's (University District, 4217 University Way NE) is a jewel of The Ave for its distinct look, its longevity, but most importantly, an absurd amount of cheap booze throughout the week. Sunday in particular offers 50% off EVERYTHING on the bar's menu, making it an easy weekly go-to for the broke lush. MacCool's also panders to semi-social college drunks with Tuesday beer pong tournaments and Karaoke on Tuesdays.The Quiz: (Monday, 9 PM, Free) Finn MacCool's Trivia Night consists of eight categories containing five questions each . Answer sheets were prefabricated to allow room for not only team answers, but also for quiz categories and even a few notes on each question -- avoiding the inevitable disorganization that comes with teams of drunks navigating through 40 questions.
I personally love this format -- more or less identical to that of Nabob -- it conserves paper, provides a strong sense of consistency from week to week for return traffic, and simply gives the idea that the quiz had a lot of effort put into it before the first question is even posed.
There was a bit of a problem with question difficulty, with gimme questions saturating most of the first half ("Haupia is made from the milk of what fruit?" Seriously? Does any non-coconut fruit even HAVE milk?) and inflating most of the scores. Not to take anything away the triumph of this week's team, but a team that manages a 38/40 score with little fanfare is kind of disconcerting.
Furthermore, the recent BYU Vs. UW college football game was the basis of an entire category, although two of the five questions were centered around commercials shown during the telecast. It was a baffling sort of compromise that threw almost half of itself out, seemingly for fear of being too sports-centric.
There's an unfortunate stigma inherent in the geeky nature of quiz nights in quizmakers being deathly afraid of asking sports questions -- one that directly benefits asthmatic weakling film minors like myself, but not necessarily Seattle's trivia community as a whole. While obscure movie trivia positively dominates most pub quizzes (Finn's being no exception, with a round of Movie Trivia promised every week), little love is ever given to brainy sports fans. One notable exception is the Kangaroo and Kiwi's trivia night, who Ashley names as her favorite non-MacCool's quiz... but that's a story for another Trivia Tuesday.
The Host: Ashley only started at the beginning of this summer, taking the reins of a pub quiz that has lasted at Finn's for over five years. While she fumbled over a few of her own questions, her energy and charm never let any faux pas interrupt her authority.
She's very excited to host at Finn's, but has no immediate plans for taking on any other nights, saying that MacCool's keeps her plenty busy through both the quiz and bartending.
Special Effects: MacCool's promises one audio round every week, where a song is played over the PA and teams are required to either identify it or put it in context of the category. Eight full categories also leave room for a lot of multiple choice questions; "Drink It, Dance It, or Drive It" was probably the most solid category of the night, where a foreign(ish) word was given and teams were required to identify it as an alcoholic beverage, a dance, or a car.
Drink Specials: $3 Microbrew pints and $10 Microbrew pitchers would be perfectly fine for a boozy Trivia Night incentive, but MacCool's doesn't stop there. $4 Bomb Shots (Jaeger, Car, Touchdown, etc...) are perfect for those of you who want to cheat your way out of the fuzzy Sunday doldrums. If that weren't enough, Finn's Happy Hour begins at 10 PM, meaning the second half of the quiz promises $3 wells and food specials as well.
The Verdict: Questions seems disappointingly imbalanced at this point, but that can easily be explained by a relatively new quizmaster just trying to find her footing -- and the absurd amount of drink specials combined with a respectable amount of competition make most of Quizmaster Ashley's growing pains endearing. The new quizmaster might also fit new quiz-takers perfectly -- as should the bar's unique scoring system. While "Varsity" players compete for the big prize, a "Junior Varsity" victory is also possible between any teams who score below the first round's median score. Prizes for beginners, cheap food, cheap booze and big crowds make Finn MacCool's perfect for the casual quiz-taker.
Note: Starting next week, Trivia Tuesday will take a slight format change throughout the month of September, as the column explores Seattle branches of national trivia franchises like All Star Pop Culture, Brainstormer, and Geeks Who Drink. Trivia Tuesday still retains a commitment to Seattle's independent quizmasters and will continue featuring them in October.