I can compare results using allintitle: and allinanchor: searches with my new sites and my old ones. The old ones appear in the top ten for the these searches and the normal searches where as my new sites appear between 160 and 200 for a normal search and in the top ten for an allintitle: or allinanchor: search.
and it's statements like this that keeps this "sandbox" theory trundling along until the next theory rolls of the Google myth production line.
When I put a new site up, I don't think "right it's the best ever, it should be top 5 next week/month". Nope. I know for a fact that while it may well get top placing for a meaningless search, but the phrases that count will take time. Might be 2 months, might be 6 months, might be 2 years. But I'm not flapping around like a headless chicken with a placard saying Google's not being fair to me. It's the same as it ever was ( thanks David) and the same as it will be.
The only thing that has changed is there are now more sites competing and working to get to the top and this number grows daily. therefore by simple logic (which appears to escape many) it will be more difficult to get there.
If you choose to build your website base on the shifting sands of links then TOUGH! Learn that it takes time and allow for it.
Thank You. NEXT!