Oh, Tiddledywinks


The players are in their appointed places, eyes ahead and breath held. Every muscle is tensed, every nerve ending ready for the signal that will mean the start of a long-awaited, precision competition.

“Ready?” the referee barks. The competitors nod silently. “Okay then. Ready, set … tiddledy!”

Tiddledy?

Yes, tiddledy. At the command the first contestant expertly flips a plastic disk toward a small, round container in the center of the table, having used eye, hand, and mind in the effort. Success! There is a faint plastic plop as the disk settles into the cup.

“Darn!” The opponent says to himself. “I’ll really have to squidge the wink into the tub carefully this time.”

Squidge? Wink? Tub? What is this, anyway?

This, in case you have not already guessed, is that game you probably discarded years ago with your dolls or toy trucks. If you didn’t, you better get it out of your little brother’s toy box or the attic; the tiddledywink revival is on its way.

Although there was no tiddling team in the Olympics, the game—or sport, as enthusiasts prefer to call it—has enjoyed popularity on college campuses for years. Many universities sponsor an annual tournament (probably in conjunction with their frog-jumping and frisbee-throwing contests) to pit top tiddlers against each other. In fact, one year the Harvard team hosted an international meet, only to be out-winked by the Oxford flippers 25–0. This did not inhibit them, however, and they went on to capture all of the Ivy League titles for that year.

The sport is ideal for parties, activities, and socials. Almost everyone can participate, whether it is as a competitor, scorekeeper, referee, or cheerleader (“T-I-D, D-L-E, Tiddle-that-wink!”). Rounds can move fast enough for a fairly large group to play and a tournament champion can emerge in fairly short order. However, for the more intense, six-hour winkathons have been known to occur.

Interested? It is easy to learn, and a few minutes of tiddling will probably bring it all back to you. So dig out that dilapidated box and prepare yourself to become an expert.

Perhaps the pieces have been scattered or lost over the years, so it might be a good idea to take inventory. Official rules list equipment as follows: (1) at least 15 small disks in assorted colors, 7/8 inch in diameter and 0.057 inch thick (but don’t get out the measuring tape—most assembled games are regulation size); (2) a cup, 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches high; (3) a larger disk of unspecified size; and (4) felt launching pads, usually thick and square.

Rules can be simple or complex, but the basic move is the same no matter which method you choose. The cup is always placed two feet from the launching pads, and the player presses the edge of the large disk against a smaller one, causing it to flip into the air—hopefully to land in the cup.

In tournaments there are men’s and women’s singles and doubles, and it is quite easy to mix the teams. In singles, each player flips 15 winks; in doubles, each team flips a total of 25, with at least ten apiece.

There are basically three types of scoring. The first, similar to golf, gives each player the total number of tries it takes to flip all disks into the cup. The player with the lowest score wins.

The second method is the kind you’ll most likely find explained in your childhood set. Often, a plastic mat will be included, with the cup as the bull’s-eye and concentric circles of lower scores as the wink lands farther away from the cup. In this case, each disk is flipped only once.

The second method may be combined with the third or the third may be used alone for the more experienced player. It also consists of one flip per wink and scores as follows:

  • 10 points if it lands and stays in the cup

  • 5 points if it lands in and then bounces outside the cup

  • 3 points if it grazes the cup in the air

  • 1 point if it grazes the cup on a bounce from the table.

Any of these methods can be adapted to suit your particular winkers’ wants.

Now that you know the basics, here are a few terms to help you hoodwink your opponent into thinking you are an old pro, even if you haven’t squidged a disk in years.

PLOP: another word for the landing of the wink. “That was just a lucky plop”

SHOOTER: the largest disk

SQUIDGE: another word for shooting, in which the largest tiddledy (“squidger”) sends the wink flying

TIDDLEDY: the large disk

TIDDLEPOT: the cup

TUB: another word for the cup

WINK: the smaller disks

There you have it. You are now ready to tackle the squidgers in another ward or Mutual class, or even in your own family. Organizing a competition should be easy, especially if the top tiddler receives a chocolate cake decorated with candy tiddlies. But even if you lose, what could be better than getting flipped a wink by that boy or girl you’ve had your eye on all year?

[illustration] Illustrated by Julie F. Young