I've been lurking here for years and seen many recommendations for a Linux flavor that works. What I'm really looking for is Linux that works without constant under-the-hood tweaking
I think the question really requires taking a step back and looking at what a distro is and does. Because if you're coming in from another OS I'd say there's three levels of changes and the distro-level is probably the least important.
1. Applications: Do your applications run under Linux or do they have functional equivalents like web services you'd be happy with. If you've heard about WINE, then stop because Windows emulation is full of quirks. It's a tool for users that really, really don't want to run Windows even if it has 10x the issues of running Windows software on Windows. No distro is going to help you if after banging your head on GIMP and Krita you realize that no, I really need Photoshop or anything else with less than a platinum rating on WINE. And even then it can break in the next update.
2. Desktop environment (DE), this is pretty much how the OS part of the interface will look like for you. No matter which one you pick it won't be like Windows or OS X. If a distro ships a DE, it'll probably look and feel pretty much the same across distros. If you don't like Gnome or KDE on Ubuntu there's not much point trying them again on SuSE, Mint or Debian. Granted, a few of these are almost like picking distros as I'd take Mint for Cinnamon and Ubuntu for Unity but far from all.
3. Quality of packaging, testing, support, upgrades, security patches, availability of backports and third party repositories, release schedule etc. basically a lot of the boring housekeeping and problem solving. For the most part, this is what distros do - they take what developers have made and wrap it up in packages for you. But if the developers haven't made the apps you want, you'll be tweaking your work process a lot. If they haven't made the DE the way you want, you'll be tweaking your OS interaction a lot. A good distro doesn't create fuss for you, but it doesn't really mean it'll work for you.
I'd just start with Ubuntu with Unity (the default) only because it's super common and see if you get past #1. If you do and don't like Unity I'd try Cinnamon, KDE, Gnome and XFCE, as far as I know they're all available as packages on Ubuntu. If you find something that looks right for you I'd move on to #3 and ask "What distro is the best to run [Cinnamon/Gnome/KDE/Unity/XFCE]?" Though I suspect that the answer will probably be one of the Mint or Ubuntu spins in most cases. There's not much point in going outside the beaten path if you just want to get started.