Looking for way to search for wildcard with space characters. Does KQL have character escaping?

Basically, I have log strings that I wanted to keep as a wildcard type to be able to search for exact substrings with either wildcard query *abc* or with regex /.*abc.*/. The problem is that Observability → Logs doesn't support Lucene, and KQL doesn't seem to support character escaping. So to search e.g. for phrase "first iteration" I either has to user Discover and search for *first\ iteration* or for /.*first iteration.*/
As a side note: it would be way more convenient if there was an option to invert regex anchoring. I.e. to add .* to the side if it is not present, and to remove if .* is present. Most of the search strings over wildcard message field are done like *some\ stuff* right now. Exact search for "some stuff" substring would be very convenient.

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