Solution to Harmony

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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.

Marvel Mangaverse Earth-2301 23
Marvel Zombies Earth-2149 14
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
Marvel/DC crossovers Earth-7642 76

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.

Author’s Notes

As you can probably guess, this was originally four separate puzzle ideas that got glommed together. Thematic coherence? What’s that?

“My cabotage!” —ICAO, probably