Yes, it was the router's new firmware.
Luckilly, we were able to scrounge up the older firmware.
Strangely, we were not able to update over wireless from the macs -- got to 50%, stopped, and router status never showed a new firmware date (so we used a wired pc)
We tried both firmwares available at:
After uploading, we carefully reset the router to firmware defaults by holding in the reset button for 5 seconds, it TOTALLY messed up the router's ability to work with linux wirelessly (wired connections were not affected).
I know who I'll be calling on Monday...
Hope this helps somebody else.
BTW, the configuration files the router saves cannot be used between different firmware versions so be sure to backup before upgrading your firmware in case you have to back out the new stuff 8-( and go back to your original firmware and settings