D'uh - if you select "show options" when placing a pdf you can then select trim, media, bleed, etc. Didn't have to use "show options" with every image you import before, but by having that open, you need to specify which option you want. The particular PDF that I had the error on did not have bleed.
Still can drag and drop a pdf with Bridge w/o getting same message...hmmm
That's a new improved error message apparently. The old one just said
Can't Place PDF (not very helpful, either).
The options are sticky so the prior PDFs must have had bleed.
In any event, I'm glad you got it sorted.