pandoc document conversion failed with error 43

Today I had a “pandoc document conversion failed with error 43” error when compiling a document in Rstudio and directly with rmarkdown. Such an error used to occur a couple of years ago, but that bug has long been fixed. At first I was a bit puzzled, given that this was a rather simple document. It turned out that this error can be a sign of a poorly specified ‘date’ argument in the header, more specifically pandoc does not like a period there.

So
---
title: "Something"
author: "Didier Ruedin"
date: "7 March 2017"
output: pdf_document
---

works, while

---
title: "Something"
author: "Didier Ruedin"
date: "7. March 2017"
output: pdf_document
---

does not. In German, typically there is a period in dates, like 7. März 2017.

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