Though Hamlet is famous for being _________, he still manages to go on something of a killing spree in Shakespeare’s play, proving that he is hardly paralyzed with depression.
The key to this sentence comes at the very end, when you learn that Hamlet is not “paralyzed with depression.” We’ve already read in the middle part of the sentence that he is not paralyzed, so the depression part must come from the blank. Indecisive and monologic both fit the famous character of Hamlet, but they don’t fit the sentence (nor do they make a pair). Similarly, violent and barbaric would be accurate in describing Hamlet, but they don’t fit the sentence. Only melancholy and morose match the meaning you want.
The beauty queen’s mother could not believe her daughter had been disqualified for hitting one of the judges with her baton, and she would not be __________ by the official’s offer of a free steak dinner.
For this sentence, you need to infer how the beauty queen’s mother likely felt about her daughter being disqualified—namely, badly. The conjunction “and” signals that the second half is going to match the tone of the first half (as opposed to something like “but”), so the blank needs to be something showing that the mother is still not happy. Placated and mollified both fit the meaning. Ameliorated is close, but only a problem can be ameliorated, not a person.
Most physics textbooks are dense and abstruse, whereas Richard Feynman can describe the most recondite mysteries with impressive __________.
The word whereas sets up a contrast with dense and abstruse (the latter of which means “difficult to understand”), so you need a word that means something like “clarity.” Sagacity and prowess both imply skill, but you need something that also implies a kind of simplicity. Limpidity and lucidity fit the bill perfectly.
Even though Mariposa loved taking on roles that involved a lot of lines, she was excited to be playing a more __________ character, which would require her to focus more on gesture and expression.
The words even though set up a contrast, so you need something that contrasts with roles that involved a lot of lines. A character without a lot of lines would be quiet. Melancholy and dejected imply sadness, but not necessarily a refusal to speak (Hamlet is pretty depressed, and he talks all the time). Mute goes too far. Laconic and curt both match with the meaning you’re seeking. Note that curt has the sense of being rudely short with people, whereas laconic is not necessarily negative.
The Fed knows that a certain level of financial stability can be attained by lowering interest rates, yet if it overuses this power, it risks losing its most reliable means of _________ a crisis.
The first half of the sentence explains that lowering interest rates can create financial stability, so this would allow the Fed to make a crisis “better.” Exacerbating and compounding are the opposite of what you want, and annihilating goes too far. Only palliating and assuaging correctly fit the meaning here.
Oftentimes, when administrators force teachers to cleave too closely to a federal curriculum, those teachers feel __________, because the mandatory curriculum curbs their sense of being creative and dynamic educators.
The end of this sentence makes it clear that the teachers in question are not happy about having to stick to a prescribed curriculum. Crushed, confounded, walloped, and tormented are all negative, but all of them miss the meaning of the sentence (and no two of them make a good pair). Crushed means “emotionally devastated” and tends to apply to things that happen all at once — a breakup, not getting a promotion, etc.
An obsession with aesthetics ___________ all the work of the computer company; even their unsuccessful products manage to look like pieces of modernist sculpture.
The second half of this sentence describes how aesthetics are a major part of the work of the company, so you need a word for the blank that means something like “permeates.” Saturates is close, but it has no partner (irradiate means either “to expose to radiation” or “to illuminate”). Underpins and undergirds fit the meaning of the sentence perfectly.
The newest romantic comedy wasn’t exactly bad, but simply _________; it had laughs, but they were all jokes you’d heard before.
The beginning of the sentence says the movie “wasn’t exactly bad,” implying that you’re going to get a word that isn’t the opposite of bad, but that qualifies it in some way. Later in the sentence, you get a more specific addition: they were all jokes you’d heard before. You need words that match with that definition. Both trite and hackneyed fit that meaning. Atrocious and egregious mean the same thing as “bad,” so they don’t work. And while amusing and witty make a pair, they’re the opposite of what you want.
The painter was just as famous for his personality as for his work; unlike the many pretentious and pontificating men in his field, he was known to be entirely __________.
The first half of this sentence tells you that you’re going to focus primarily on the painter’s personality. You then need something that contrasts with either “pretentious” or “pontificating.” Artless and ingenuous, meaning “without effort or pretentiousness,” are perfect. Shrewd, adroit, and artful are all positive words, but they don’t contrast with “pretentious” or “pontificating.”
We tried to call her over to where we were standing, down at the edge of the stage, but she couldn’t hear us over the ___________.
You can assume that there would be a lot of “noise” at the edge of a stage, which would explain why someone couldn’t be heard. Clamor and din both fit the sentence. Rabble and host both mean “crowd,” which is something you might not be able to hear over, but they don’t make nearly as good a choice. Music is a little too specific; don’t add new ideas to the sentence.