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“It’s really great to see the intricacies of the art that doesn’t get the big advertisement,” she said.

The hunts are a way of getting people to “discover stuff they wouldn’t normally see because they fall into habits and tend to go toward the biggest hits,” said Watson, a former magazine writer and editor who creates 80 percent of the mystery hunts himself.

The groups receive specific directions, like `look for the lion, turn left, turn into the room where there’s a royal bed,” said Watson. “Sometimes I’ll make a group go through a room just so they can see it. My hope is that people get excited and after the hunt, go back to parts of the museum they were intrigued by.”

David Filipiak, the Met’s tourism marketing manager, said Watson Adventures ties in nicely with the museum’s campaign to “Get Close” to the art.

“When you look at art, it can change you _ not just wander, stroll by, but truly take the time to look at the details, it can be a changing experience,” he said.

In 2010, Watson Adventures said it brought 3,878 people to the Met, and 1,943 during the first six months of this year. That year, 4.9 million people visited the museum, the Met said.

The hunts, averaging $35, do not require any knowledge of art and are held on select weekends each month. A pair of comfortable shoes is advisable.

A recent _ and timely addition _ is The Wizard School Scavenger Hunt, designed for Harry Potter lovers. The company describes it as a way for wizards and muggles alike to enjoy searching for art reminiscent of the Hogsworth School of Witchcraft and creatures as scary as the Death Eater and Dementor.

Watson Adventures also offers scavenger hunts in historic locations, like Salem, Mass., famous for its 17th-century witch trials, and New York’s Greenwich Village, a mecca for artists and innovators and the home of the Stonewall Inn, which became a rallying point for gay rights in June 1969.

Loring Allen, 49, a marketing executive from Rye, N.Y., said the Watson Adventures hunts are so challenging and fun that she’s done five, including “Naked at the Met” that a friend booked for a group of friends in town for her wedding.

“She did it as a way to entertain people … and have them get to know each other,” Allen said. “And then I had people to talk to at the wedding.”

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Online:

http://www.watsonadventures.com