Solution to Harmony
Answer: STATE LINE
by Alan Huang
This puzzle combines the four elements of the Avatar universe with the four steps of an “Identify, Sort, Index, Solve” puzzle, and more vaguely with a few different common puzzle formats.
The left column of the table corresponds to the element of water and the “identify” step of ISIS. Each list is a set of related things with one missing; that one is related to water in some way. The rest have been replaced with the alphabetically previous and next words in a dictionary.
|Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, ?, Reds||NL Central baseball teams||Pirates|
|Acme, Codex, Left Out, Manic Sages, Metaphysical Plant, ?, Palindrome, Setec Astronomy||Mystery Hunt writing teams||One Fish Two Fish Random Fish Blue Fish|
|Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Mulan, Pocahontas, Tarzan, ?||Disney Renaissance films (1989–1999)||The Little Mermaid|
|Callisto, ?, Ganymede, Io||Galilean moons of Jupiter||Europa|
|?, Charizard, Venusaur||Evolved Pokémon starters (first generation)||Blastoise|
|Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, ?, Zeus||Greek gods (Twelve Olympians)||Poseidon|
|Skateboard, Snowboard, ?||Board sports||Surfboard|
|Anointing, ?, Confirmation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Matrimony, Penance||Catholic sacraments||Baptism|
Note for pedantic readers: while /usr/share/dict/words provides the wordlist used, the ordering doesn’t always match exactly. I tried to skip words that would be considered forms or compounds of the clued word, while allowing those that were merely etymologically related, but this is ambiguous in the presence of multi-word phrases and Greek gods (how closely is “Hermaphroditus” derived from “Hermes”?). So extracting a rigorous dictionary order isn’t expected or needed.
The middle column of the table corresponds to the element of earth and the “index” step of ISIS. Each panel depicts an alternate version of Spider-Man, the original “web comic”. Marvel comics give every alternate universe a numbered designation; the ones used here all have four digits, so they can be matched to the four letters in the speech bubble, two of which are indicated per panel. The copyright indicates the year of the universe’s first appearance.
|Earth Prime (the real world)||Earth-1218||12|
|Ultimate Marvel (Miles Morales)||Earth-1610||16|
|Sheep-Boy (yes, really)||Earth-9792||99|
|Spider-Man (1967 cartoon)||Earth-6799||67|
|Spider-Man (2018 video game)||Earth-1048||48|
The right column of the table corresponds to the element of fire and the “sort” step of ISIS. The eight song titles appear in eight consecutive lines from “Ring of Fire” by June Carter Cash/Johnny Cash, which provides an ordering.
|Burn||Hamilton||And it BURNs, BURNs, BURNs|
|Burning||Sam Smith||I fell into a BURNING ring of fire|
|Down||Blink-182||I went DOWN, DOWN, DOWN|
|Flames||Sia/David Guetta||And the FLAMES went higher|
|Hearts Like Ours||The Naked and Famous||When HEARTS LIKE OURS meet|
|Like A Child||Backstreet Boys||I fell for you LIKE A CHILD|
|Taste of Love||Maxi Trusso||The TASTE OF LOVE is sweet|
|Wild||John Legend||Oh, but the fire went WILD|
Now we can combine the elements. Each row should be considered a unit; they are initially ordered alphabetically by song title. Use the answers from water, index by the digits from earth, and reorder by the lines from fire to find what Aang values most: the FREEDOMS OF THE AIR. These are a numbered categorization of rights granted by countries to airlines from other countries. A list can be found on Wikipedia or other places online.
|The taste of love is sweet||Surfboard||48||FR|
|When hearts like ours meet||Blastoise||99||EE|
|I fell for you like a child||Poseidon||67||DO|
|Oh, but the fire went wild||Baptism||76||MS|
|I fell into a burning ring of fire||One Fish Two Fish Random Fish Blue Fish||14||OF|
|I went down, down, down||The Little Mermaid||12||TH|
|And the flames went higher||Europa||16||EA|
|And it burns, burns, burns||Pirates||23||IR|
The air/“solve” step is itself a mini-ISIS. Each diary entry indicates both an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender and a specific freedom of the air exercised by the characters. To be unambiguous, only events specified in the entry should be considered, not any others in the same episode; as the diary is written from Aang and Appa’s perspective, air temples count as the home country (for The Boiling Rock, using Hakoda’s perspective gives the same result). The entries are given in alphabetical order by episode title.
|2-16||Appa’s Lost Days||6: from one country (fire) to home (air) to another (earth)||L|
|3-09||Nightmares and Daydreams||2: refuel without embarking or disembarking passengers||I|
|2-01||The Avatar State||7: from one foreign country (water) to another (earth)||T|
|3-14||The Boiling Rock, Part 1||9: between two points within another country (fire)||N|
|2-08||The Chase||8: within a foreign country (earth) having started at home (air)||E|
|1-11||The Great Divide||1: cross another country (earth) without landing||T|
|1-03||The Southern Air Temple||4: from another country (water) to home (air)||S|
|3-16||The Southern Raiders||3: from home (air) to another country (fire)||E|
|1-18||The Waterbending Master||5: from home (air) to one country (earth) to another (water)||A|
Finally: identifying the episodes and freedoms, sorting chronologically as indicated, and indexing the freedom number into the episode title produces the answer STATE LINE, a concept definitely relevant to freedoms of the air and arguably also to events following the finale of Avatar.