Minesweeper XYZZY Cheat

The XYZZY cheat using the WEP version of Minesweeper on Windows 3.1

XYZZY is a famous Minesweeper cheat that shows you the mine locations. Type XYZZY and press [SHIFT][ENTER] and the top left pixel on your screen will become a mine detector. The pixel turns white when the mouse cursor is above a safe square and turns black above a mine.

Robert Donner added the cheat so "a friend of mine could impress people with his psychic abilities"1. His inspiration was the mainframe game Colossal Cave Adventure (1976) where players teleport between two specific rooms ("INSIDE BUILDING" and "DEBRIS ROOM") using the magic word XYZZY2. He told this site, "The original adventure was one of the first computer games that I ever played"3.

Colossal Cave Adventure was so popular in the 1980s that the book "Practical UNIX Security" warned against using XYZZY as your password4. An article in MicroTimes magazine in 1987 explained the problem:

"For those not attuned to the significance of XYZZY, it's the "magic word" needed to enter the cave in the landmark game Adventure. One of the security agents working on the case told me, "XYZZY is one of the all-time hot passwords used by programmers."5

The cheat was implemented in the Windows Entertainment Pack version of Minesweeper in October 1990. It works in the Windows 3.1, 2000 and XP versions of the game but early beta versions of the game do not include the cheat and it was removed from the Windows 9x line of operating systems (95, 98, ME). We have tested all versions and the cheat also can be activated by typing XYZZY and holding [SHIFT] for 10 seconds. Pressing [SHIFT] pauses the cheat but the most recent pixel status will remain visible.

The earliest known mention of the cheat was an InfoWorld magazine article on 11 May 19926. People have written "solvers" 7,8,9 including a program to prevent you from clicking on the mines9.

The XYZZY cheat using the WEP version of Minesweeper on Windows 3.1.
Warning about XYZZY being a bad password in 1991.
XYZZY Minesweeper bot by 'Kiti'
Autohotkey XYZZY Minesweeper bot that prevents clicking on mines.
Source code from Colossal Cave Adventure written in 1976.
Windows NT 4.0 Minesweeper source code excerpts for the XYZZY cheat.

1 Email from Robert Donner in 2000 to the author of this website.
2 GitHub - Original 1976 source code for Colossal Cave Adventure.
3 Email from Robert Donner on 22 July 2005 to the author of this website.
4 Practical UNIX Security - A 1991 book on computer security warned (p32) against using XYZZY as a password.
5 MicroTimes - Volume 4, 1987 article about programmers using XYZZY as a password.
6 InfoWorld Magazine - Earliest known article about the XYZZY Minesweeper cheat on 11 May 1992.
7 Minesweeper bot - XYZZY bot that can solve Expert in 1 second. Only 15 lines of code. Written 17 July 2008.
8 Autoitscript.com - Forum thread dedicated to XYZZY Minesweeper cheat scripts during 2005-2006.
9 Autohotkey.com - User 'ricke' posted code for an XYZZY solver than prevents clicking on mines on 14 Sept 2006.

Article created 16 September 2021 by Damien Moore.