Thanks Greg, that was funny.
Yeah, I was vague. I realized last night that I may have just happened upon an "accidental feature" that had nothing to do with my using it as a "project not saved" indicator. I wasn't sure exactly why, but indeed, the asterisk is there if you have unsaved changes, and goes away when you click on save.
I also observed some further unexplained behaviour in that when you perform a function that prompts you with the "do you want to save" window, clicking no will also kill the asterisk.
Either way, "this little hint could be more obvious" is the suggestion. I got it!