So, the goal here was a tight, well-ordered crumb---like the Bauernbrot I grew up with. Gluten crosslinking bonds are sulphide bonds (similar to the vulcanization of rubber) and the process is related to a redox reaction. Oxidation (obviously) facilitates this reaction and is really just a fancy (albeit revealing) word for "kneading." You can play with ascorbic acid to help the reaction along as well. I also have a bottle of sodium bisulfate with which I intend to play around.
The autolyse essentially gives the protease a chance to catabolize the gluten, weakening it in patches, and thereby leading to open crumb bread. By adding a protease inhibitor (salt), you prevent that from happening.