Solution - Alchemy 101
ANSWER – LAUREL

First, each pair of images needs to be identified and the solver needs to determine what their combinination will produce. As clued by the title, these are all valid combinations in Little Alchemy 2 (this can also be found by searching for many of the items together after identifying the images).

After determining all of the combinations, the new items need to be pitted against each other in the tournament bracket. The trick here is figuring out how to determine the winner of each matchup. The fact that rock, paper, and scissors are all in the bracket is a clue that this might involve some sort of extended version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Again, searching for many of the items together will help to find RPS 101, a crazy version of Rock, Paper, Scissors that has 101 possible plays. This can be used to fill out the full bracket:

After the bracket is filled out, an answer to the puzzle needs to be extracted. The matchup times look like they can be used to index into words, but in some cases the time is too large to index into the matchup participants. Instead, they're used to index into the way that the matchup was won. For example, the Day 1 3:00 matchup would extract the letter R, since it's the 3rd letter in Alien TE[R]RAFORMS Mountain. Reading these letters in matchup order spells WREATHOFVICTORY. A laurel wreath is a symbol of victory, so the answer to the puzzle is LAUREL.


Author's Notes

  • It's probably obvious after reading the solution, but although the title sounds like it's describing a crash course in alchemy, it's actually a clue for both mechanics in this puzzle.
  • We initially had the idea to use Little Alchemy since alchemy was thematic to the hunt, plus we had a bunch of word puzzles so we wanted to switch it up a bit. We then thought about RPS 101 and were shocked to find that 61 out of the 101 items overlapped with Little Alchemy! We knew we had to connect the two games somehow.
  • Some of the ways that items "beat" each other in RPS 101 are hilarious. Our favorite one that was used in this puzzle is Death "not caused by" Scissors.
  • The official RPS 101 source misspells the word "wields" in "Medusa weilds Sword". We decided to keep that spelling in the solution to remain true to the source. Luckily it didn't matter much since the extraction only used the W.
  • We tried to be "purist" about avoiding explicit numerical indexing in our puzzles, but we ended up needing it in this puzzle. As a compromise, we used the match timings to make the indexing feel less random and more connected to the puzzle. It made construction a bit harder since the indexes within each day had to be monotonically increasing.
  • In another attempt at being purist, we decided to write puzzles that didn't require any flavortext (the story text at the top is purely story and isn't meant to help with solving at all). In retrospect, this puzzle in particular could have benefitted from flavortext to avoid frustration at not being able to find Little Alchemy and/or RPS 101.

Stats

  • 100 solves
  • 386 incorrect guesses
  • Most common incorrect guess: MOON (guessed 50 times)
  • First solve: Erotic Camgirls of /r/PictureGame in 1 hours, 46 minutes, and 42 seconds