The crossword editor of the New York Times on his top five area table-tennis clubs.
By: Laurie Yarnell
Photo by Don Christensen
Puzzle master and Pleasantville resident Will Shortz unwinds by pursuing his passion for table tennis (aka ping pong). He’s played at a record-breaking 92 U.S. table-tennis clubs in 22 states. Here, he chooses his top five favorite clubs in and around the county.
1) Rivertowns Table Tennis Club (Ardsley, Hastings-on-Hudson, and Tarrytown.) Shortz’s home club since 2001 meets five nights a week at community centers in one of the above towns on a rotating basis. Ardsley, he says, is “the most low-key and the best place for beginners.” Hastings is “more professional but still informal and friendly,” and Tarrytown is “where the club’s best players go for the toughest practice and matches.”
2) Burke Table Tennis Club (Burke Rehabilitation Center, White Plains) Burke is the county’s only other established table-tennis club; the two organizations have a large overlap in membership. The club meets Monday and Thursday evenings in Burke’s gymnasium. “You can often find me here on Thursday nights,” Shortz says.
3) SPiN New York (Manhattan.) Shortz describes this hip, new table-tennis club on 23rd Street as a combination table-tennis emporium, bar, and restaurant. “It’s a fun, trendy place to go with friends or a date,” he says. “The music is loud, the food is good, and the bar is big. There is no other place like it in the world.”
4) New York International Table Tennis Center (Flushing, Queens.) Of the several table-tennis clubs in Queens, this one, headed by YuXiang Li, a former national table-tennis champion of China, is where Shortz plays most often. “The club has ten tables, excellent flooring and lighting.”
5) New Jersey Table Tennis Club (Westfield, New Jersey.) The oldest existing table-tennis club in the metropolitan area—it dates back more than 70 years—it hosts monthly tournaments, which, Shortz says, “let you find out how good you really are.” Because he won the “Unrated” event at a tournament here circa 1980, this club, he says, “has always held a special place in my heart.”