The judge’s keen eye for sussing out the pretension of the lawyers in her courtroom was surpassed only by the _________ wit with which she castigated them for it.
The best clue in this sentence is its parallel structure. The judge’s “keen eye” was surpassed only by her “______ wit.” Keen means “sharply discerning,” so you should be looking for words that denote a “sharpness,” or “bitingness,” of wit. Mordant and trenchant, both of which are close in meaning to “incisive,” are best. Don’t be confused by the other set of synonyms, assiduous and sedulous, both of which have meanings close to “diligent.”
The golden crown’s dazzling ____________ is tarnished only by its torrid and bloody history.
Even though this sentence is short, its tough vocabulary makes it tricky. It is clear enough from the word dazzling that you’re looking for a word that means “brightness” or “brilliance.” Refulgence and radiance are best; none of the other words match this meaning.
Lie detector tests attempt to discern _________ by measuring physiological responses, including heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate.
Fortunately, this sentence is pretty straightforward — you need two words that mean “lying.” Only mendacity and improbity work.
__________ though the family now may be, they continue to carry themselves in public with an air befitting their aristocratic heritage.
This sentence trickily hinges on the idiom though they now may be, which indicates that whatever comes after the comma is opposite in meaning to the blank. You learn next that that family seems to act as if they are still aristocrats. The implication is that they are then not aristocrats, or at least don’t have the same wealth that aristocrats are known to have. You’re thus looking for a word that means “poor” or “impoverished.” Impecunious, which comes from pecunia, Latin word for “money,” and insolvent, which means “unable to pay debts,” are best.
The ___________ between parties is rapidly becoming insurmountable, as a lack of faith on both sides creates conditions where issues once considered beyond the pale of dispute are becoming subject to contention.
Beyond the pale of dispute indicates that there were issues that were once totally accepted by both parties. Now they are “subject to contention,” indicating that there is a widening “gap,” or “fissure,” between the parties: a rift or a breach between them.
Central to the challenger’s platform was the argument that the incumbent had ultimately ________ the agreements he had initially championed during his first stint in office.
Reneged on, abrogated.
The political challenger is apparently saying that the “incumbent,” or “current” politician made certain agreements during his first time in office, but didn’t follow through on them. The politician, in other words, “went back on,” or “failed to honor” these agreements: he reneged on them, or abrogated them.
By the third quarter, the opposing team had lost the upper hand entirely, the game becoming an utter _________, a fact made most evident, perhaps, by the escalating jeers coming from the nearby bleachers.
The team once had an “upper hand” and is now losing badly. You need words that denote a “crushing failure,” or a “drubbing.” Debacle and rout are good, and none of the other words come close. Note that a boondoggle is certainly bad, but it is an unnecessary and wasteful project, and thus not relevant here.
Even from a distance, the man could see that the tornado had _____________ from the site all but the most basic elements of his childhood home; nothing but traces of the original foundations remained.
This sentence is about as purely definition-based as you can get: the house was torn from the ground and utterly destroyed. You need words that signify “eradicated” or “obliterated”; extirpated and ef aced are right.
Even those accustomed to the austere beauty of mathematics may be daunted by the __________ with which Bourbaki conducts his proofs.
Even implies that the word is stronger than austere, though similar to that word. The word names something in Bourbaki’s proof that daunts or intimidates. You might anticipate something like “great difficulty.” Asperity means “severity,” which will work (it especially suggests a rough or harsh surface). Rigor is an even closer synonym to “austerity.”
The representative’s violent ascension to prominence began with a __________ attack on the comparatively conciliatory leaders of his own party.
You’d like a word that contrasts with conciliatory, since the word comparatively suggests an opposition. You’d also like a word that sensibly modifies attack. You might anticipate something as simple as “attacking.” Truculent and savage both suggest a disposition to fight.