Today Bruce bought a new can of lye and started over again. It became quickly obvious that the first can of lye was old and no longer on its game -- the new stuff reacted strongly with the warm water and bubbled and released heat. The first can of lye did very little reacting. Who knew that lye had a shelf life?
So now the two crocks of olives are back in a lye solution. We'll check them before we go to bed and again in the morning. I'm feeling confident at this point that it was indeed the lye that was the problem. Now I just hope that we can get these olives back on track.