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Networked Knowledge Computer Trivia Game Challenges Bar Patrons Across The Country

What does the word vodka mean in Russian?

Who authored the first real American cookbook?

Which cartoon superhero did Bob Kane create?

This is not “Jeopardy.”

It’s the National Trivia Network, an electronic game beamed by satellite to some 2,800 locations around the country.

In Spokane, fans gather at a couple of bars to test their knowledge and recall.

“I’m totally hooked,” said Julie Kinzer, a first-grade schoolteacher spending some of her summer vacation in pursuit of things trivial.

Kinzer and her friends showed up last week at downtown Spokane’s Rock City Grill, a place that attracts some of the city’s most dedicated trivialists.

Twins Kevin and Pat Soderquist said they play three times a week, usually from their favorite stools at the front bar. They normally stay a couple of hours a session.

“It’s fun competition,” said Kevin Soderquist, who runs an espresso shop on the South Hill.

This game is not for dim-wits.

Many players have gone to college, or if they haven’t, they’re well read.

Players use cordless hand-held keyboards, called “playmakers,” to answer questions on an interactive computer link-up.

Questions are beamed by satellite to a television screen, and players choose from five possible answers in a multiple-choice format.

Players who answer quickly earn perfect scores of 1,000 points a question. The computer gives a series of three clues, and players earn lesser points for answering after clues are given.

That allows beginners and slower players a chance to keep up.

There’s enough time between the questions to talk and have fun.

“It’s not that hard,” said Julie Repp, a caterer for Deaconess Medical Center. “It’s trivia.”

Each player goes by a code name of up to six characters.

Repp is known on the computer as “Sally,” a name she got one night when she was having soft drinks and her friends teased her about being “Sally Sober.”

Kevin Soderquist goes by “Dr. Kev,” and his brother is “Mr. Big.”

The trivia network, which is headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif., keeps track of the scores of players at each location and then ranks them nationally.

The computer lists top players around the country. One time, the national game winner was “God.”

A couple of weeks ago Rock City’s players came in fourth. Occasionally, they are smart enough to place first.

Throughout the week, the computer sends out different types of games on different subjects.

Kinzer likes to talk about the time she and a girlfriend beat all of the guys on sports night. Because she is an elementary teacher, she said she usually does well on questions about dinosaurs, planets and children’s literature.

The National Trivia Network has been in business for 10 years, and has been available in Spokane for about three years, the players said.

Besides Rock City, the game is beamed to the bar at C.I. Shenanigans downtown.

The Red Lion Inn in the Spokane Valley tried the game, but discontinued it for lack of players.

Trivia nuts admit they are a small, but loyal group.

According to statistics supplied by NTN, the average age is 30 for women and 32 for men. Men outnumber women two to one, and nearly three out of four are single.

Seven out of 10 players have attended or graduated from college and half earn more than $40,000 a year.

Oh, back to the questions.

Vodka means “little water” in Russian.

Fannie Farmer wrote the first American cookbook.

Cartoonist Bob Kane created Batman.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo