Wendy, my club's feminist, and Cy the Cynic, a shameless chauvinist, were arguing again - about whether Santa's reindeer are male or female!

"At least one must be a woman," Wendy was snarling. "Somebody has to be willing to stop and ask for directions."

"They all have antlers," Cy snorted, "so they're all men. But I'll concede that one might possibly be a woman since Comet is supposed to be good at cleaning sinks."

Smoldering, the two headed for a Chicago game - where Cy could have used some directions in today's deal. When East opened two hearts, the Cynic overcalled 2NT, and Wendy, North, had an easy raise to 3NT.

West couldn't have led a heart if he'd wanted. He started with the king of diamonds, and Cy viewed the dummy as if it were a Christmas tree without any packages. He won the second diamond, took his high spades and the A-K of clubs, and led the queen of hearts.

East was having none of that: He played low, and Cy was sunk. When he led a diamond next, West took three diamonds and his jack of spades. He had to give dummy a club trick at the end, but the result was down one.

Cy was wrong about the reindeer (Vixen is a female, as her name suggests; both sexes of reindeer have antlers), and his play at 3NT was directionless. After Cy takes his high spades and clubs, he should play a low heart from both hands.

East can win cheaply and take the A-K for the defenders' book, but Cy wins the next heart in dummy and claims the rest.