The order and timing of cell-cycle events is controlled by changing substrate specificity and different activity thresholds of cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs). However, it is not understood how a single protein kinase can trigger hundreds of switches in a sufficiently time-resolved fashion. We show that cyclin-Cdk1-Cks1-dependent phosphorylation of multisite targets in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is controlled by key substrate parameters including distances between phosphorylation sites, distribution of serines and threonines as phosphoacceptors and positioning of cyclin-docking motifs. The component mediating the key interactions in this process is Cks1, the phosphoadaptor subunit of the cyclin-Cdk1-Cks1 complex. We propose that variation of these parameters within networks of phosphorylation sites in different targets provides a wide range of possibilities for differential amplification of Cdk1 signals, thus providing a mechanism to generate a wide range of thresholds in the cell cycle.