Have neither played nor spoken about cracktop in over thirty years, but if memory serves… Play commences with each player throwing (spinning) his top at the same time. First guy whose top stops spinning is ‘it’. His top sits on its side as the target. In turns, the other players throw their tops (with a fearsome and perhaps sadistic intent) in an attempt to score a direct hit.* If you had a direct hit, your turn was over and you were saved the indignity of replacing the guy who was ‘it.’ If you missed, you advanced to a secondary stage of silliness which incorporated endless opportunities for arguments, disputes, and general verbal fencing: you had to bring your top into contact with the target top before your top stopped spinning — preferred and most reliable method was to hold your string taut, straddle the spinning top, and drag it into contact with the target by pulling the string along the spinning point. (Many of the low guys in the pecking order would be exposed for a kick in the pants while performing this ungraceful maneuver). A far more accomplished and enviable technique (but naturally more difficult and risky) was to scoop your spinning top onto your palm, carrying it (it must continue to spin all the while) to a point above the target, and dropping it onto the target. The clumsy guys would become ridiculous when attempting this one, and could easily be goaded into trying something which would assure them a turn as target. The game was everything a good street game should be: skill was evident, the uninitiated were pitiful, and there was a thinly veiled aroma of violence about the whole affair (anyone remember absurd “knucks” sessions with playing cards?) *footnote from above: hilariously unlikely folklore of some kid on another block or another neighborhood or another planet shattering a top into flying splinters. We would spend more time relating and believing such crap than actually playing the game!
In Far Rockaway, N.Y., we used to play a sadistic top game we called “crack-top”. A circle would be drawn on a smooth surface, like a shuffleboard court. Each player would place a top in the circle. The tops in the circle would have the standard ball-bearing type tip. The playing tops, however, would have a sharpened, spear-like tip. Sometimes the playing tops would be regular tops with the ball bearing removed and a nail placed point out in its place. The idea of the game was to knock tops out of the circle with the player knocking the top out, keeping the top. Of course, the real goal of the game was to split someones top wide open.
We also played tops, but the greatest store brought game of all time is Battling Tops. I 34 now and still have that game. I often play when old friends come over. I wish I could find a new board. The game was an arena with four players at oposite corners (but its actually a circle). You all released your taops, they go around and bang into one another. The last one standing gets one point
I remember that every fall the Duncan demo team would come to our school. One year they would demonstrate yo-yo’s and the next year it would be tops. This was in the 70’s. The wooden tops were the best. You would have to buy special replacement tips for the tops because they would wear out on the asphalt. I still look for those tops. I see Duncan makes still makes yo-yos, but I haven’t seen the tops in 20 years. Too bad.