In Satan in Goray, Rabbi Benish is frustrated that the young men are learning pilpul, and has tries to ban it.
They delved too deeply into things that were meant to be hidden, they drank too little from the clear waters of the holy teachings. The study of the Bible and Hebrew was looked down upon. The early commentators were rarely read. Young men, confused by the twists and turns of pilpul, sought to resolve a hundred dilemmas with one answer; they scorned true learning, as child's play.
Satan in Goray, part 1, chapter 3: "Extraordinary Rumors" (translated by Jacob Sloan)
Even as someone who speaks Hebrew and is not unfamiliar with Jewish texts (I've learned the entire Mishna and parts of the G'mara), I've never come across the term "pilpul", and I'm not quite sure what it refers to. What does Singer mean when he says that these young scholars are spending too much time on pilpul and not enough time studying the basics?