party time! It worked - or something did. I had already run the Fix-it tool twice, and, I thought, the second time in aggressive mode. However, after seeing the results of the aggressive mode this time, I must not have checked that box on the second run.
It wiped all of the update history. When I went to check for new updates, it took a very long time and returned the same two important ones and all of the optional ones that I had previously hidden (mostly international language packs).
I selected the two important updates that had been failing and they installed this time. :grin1:
(now here is my doubt about whether it was the fix-it aggressive mode or not: When I shut down the VM last night, it auto-installed a single update. Then I read this article today: Microsoft reissues September patches after user complaints ? The Register
So was that a magic fix-it patch from MS? :noidea:)
In any event, thank you very much for your assistance.