Cell shape changes such as cytokinesis are driven by the actomyosin contractile cytoskeleton. The molecular rearrangements that bring about contractility in nonmuscle cells are currently debated. Specifically, both filament sliding by myosin motors, as well as cytoskeletal cross-linking by myosins and nonmotor cross-linkers, are thought to promote contractility. Here we examined how the abundance of motor and nonmotor cross-linkers affects the speed of cytokinetic furrowing. We built a minimal model to simulate contractile dynamics in the Caenorhabditis elegans zygote cytokinetic ring. This model predicted that intermediate levels of nonmotor cross-linkers are ideal for contractility; in vivo, intermediate levels of the scaffold protein anillin allowed maximal contraction speed. Our model also demonstrated a nonlinear relationship between the abundance of motor ensembles and contraction speed. In vivo, thorough depletion of nonmuscle myosin II delayed furrow initiation, slowed F-actin alignment, and reduced maximum contraction speed, but partial depletion allowed faster-than-expected kinetics. Thus, cytokinetic ring closure is promoted by moderate levels of both motor and nonmotor cross-linkers but attenuated by an over-abundance of motor and nonmotor cross-linkers. Together, our findings extend the growing appreciation for the roles of cross-linkers in cytokinesis and reveal that they not only drive but also brake cytoskeletal remodeling.